When it comes to self defense, violent criminals or unsafe people fall along a continuum ranging from the difficult drunk who wants to grab your attention to the horribly violent and cruel person who will take your life…or worse.
The continuum is vast. I can’t teach even senior black belt students how to handle every situation represented on the continuum. What I can teach, however, is the key factor for when you find yourself on that continuum. That factor is relationship. A dynamic must exist — however short — in which the bad guys or gals insert themselves into your life in an unsafe or violent way. Violent types or jerks can’t do anything unless another person is the target.
But even when you are in Code Red and the interaction or violence has begun, you can control and avoid worsening the situation by realizing this is a relationship. You must decide to manipulate or control it to your advantage and for your personal safety.
Dealing with a flirtatious drunk?
Alter any give-and-take nature of the conversation by ending it in a way that tells the person you have a job to do and it’s nothing personal. Learn to be assertive, parental, and as you turn away say, “Have a good day. I must get back to work now.” Be repetitive if necessary.
Dealing with an impaired or unstable person?
If one way of interacting fails try another. Alter your responses to minimize escalating the situation. You may have to agree with them on some minor point, be assertive, or become a parental voice challenging them to “give the other customers a quiet evening at the restaurant.” And remember, your self defense is always more important than customer service. Never hesitate to get other staff or security to help.
Dealing with a bully?
Bullies can get off on fear, or they think they are doing you a favor by “toughening you up.” They want a relationship in which they control your emotions and reactions. You must find the inner strength or acting skills to thwart this dynamic. More on my blog post here.
Dealing with violent crime?
Some crimes occur in broad daylight, like a bank robbery, and those are often the ones where you should lay low. In more personal attacks, the criminals will also want control, compliance, and quiet. When it’s just you trying to survive the moment, you may need to disrupt their need for control or work around it. Distraction may help get them off the attack track. Yelling “Fire, Fire, Fire!” may bring help. Feigning compliance for a brief moment so they think they are in control, which may allow their adrenaline to drop, could give you a moment to assess attack or escape plans.
Dealing with a dog attack?
Thinking in terms of relationship — and how to alter it — can even apply to a dog attack. Just a few hours before writing this article, a massively muscular dog came at me as I was taking a walk. Removing my baseball cap, I slapped my leg with it noisily and then pointed it menacingly at the dog. At the same time I used a command voice to tell it “NO! Go home!”
I set the relationship with the dog, not the other way around. If I had turned to run away hysterically, it would have taken me down with ease because the relationship would have been one of hunter and prey. And if not me, then the two small kids on a single bike who were right behind me.
Think Like A Black Belt: When faced with criminals and unsafe people, remember it’s a relationship. If they control the relationship, they get what they want. If you can avoid, alter, or reverse the relationship, then you mess up their plans and create opportunity to escape to safety.
As always, I can’t tell you or advise you what to do in your particular self defense situation. You are the one who will face the moment and the variables involved. I offer options, ideas, and educational material so you can make your own decisions when faced with violence or unsafe people. Each situation is unique and you must decide while in the situation.
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