Awareness and environmental alertness is primarily important if we are to maintain personal safety and avoid potentially threatening situations. However, physical confrontation, attack and assault can sometimes be immediate, occurring without warning, pre-indication or apparent reason. In this instance avoidance is not possible, the focus must then shift to escape.
Leave your ego at the door!
It is important to recognise that personal defence must be devoid of 'ego'. The idea of escape, of running away, is difficult for some to accept as it can appear as a ‘loss of face’ or weak. The mindset that dictates that I must stand and fight this guy because of a perceived slight or assert physical dominance, is however extremely misguided and potential fatal. The fundamental point we know is this; in the moment of an immediate physical assault we immediately know nothing about our attacker. We are learning in the moment, about the attacker (or attackers), their intent and capability.
It is further essential that we understand the immediate, violent and emotionally distressing context we are discussing. This is not a consensual situation of violence (such as a boxing or mma bout). There are no referees, no judges, no medical support, corner teams or timeouts. This non-consensual situation of violence we have been thrown into erupts on us like a storm. We have no idea of it's ferocity and magnitude. We have no idea if the attacker possesses a weapon, is acting solo or with others and or what their specific intention is. Without a well rehearsed, soundly founded and reflexively executed plan, we are destined to succumb to the full force of the attack. That well founded plan however has one singular aim, survive by creating the opportunity to escape!
Consensual Versus Non-Consensual Situations of Violence
There is a massive emotional and physical difference between consensual and non-consensual situations of violence. In a consensual situation both parties are aware of the others intention, indeed this is a shared intention with a common goal. Equally, both parties generally speaking possess a similar skill set with which to attack and defend. Whilst the engagement is not predetermined or choreographed, generally both parties have an equal understanding of the ‘rules of engagement’ and this is often times reinforced by the presence of a referee. There are rules. There are identifiable conditions. Emotionally, whilst awareness and control of your adrenal response resulting from the known stress (your opponent) is key a determiner to success, the stress is indeed known. The adrenal dump created by the situation is then of a lower magnitude and potentially more readily manageable.
The opposite of all these points is true for non-consensual situations of violence. The immediate and violent nature of this situation will result in a huge adrenal dump. This will trigger physical responses in the body (for example, tremors and shaking, sweating, narrowed and potentially blurred field of vision etc.) which can serve to further impede your physical defensive response. Further this effect of adrenaline may be such to make you freeze in the moment. Whilst often referred to as the ‘fight or flight response’, the stress response is possible better referred to as the ‘fight, flight or freeze response.’ The necessity and impact of the sudden emotional and psychological assault aside, we also must consider the lack of conditions here. Simply there are no ‘rules of engagement’. There are no agreed targets, no illegal techniques and no points system in place. There’s no support or referee (although bear in mind your attacker most likely has support). There’s no agreed and shared outcome between the parties engaged and no prior knowledge of each others capabilities.
The consequence therefore is that the physical responses required for personal defence in a situation of non-consensual violence are wholly different to those we may learn, practice and rehearse for a situation of consensual violence. Equally the priority in a situation of non-consensual violence must be concerned with escape at the earliest available opportunity.
Again, the primary strategy is to be aware of and alert to potential threats and dangers within your direct environment. Understanding what is in close proximity, medium distance and long distance, will enable you to assess any potential threat, identify potential routes for escape (or lack of) and decide on the most appropriate actions. Equally being ‘switched on’ to sudden changes in that environment will provide you the thinking distance and time, in which you can decide on and take action. This is the only defence possible to protect against being attacked by complete surprise - maintain awareness, be alert to changes and appropriately manage the distance between you and the threat.
Many would be attackers however do not highlight their intention prior to the assault. Moreover utilisation of strategies to divert your attention, through either physical or verbal means, are commonly used prior to the main, more gratuitous assault. The obvious here would be the behavioural signals of the ‘angry man’, who’s aggressive gesturing, tone and volume are all designed to trigger that FEAR response and freeze you from taking action. The less obvious are the masked distractions, questions posed to divert your intention from the attacker (remember here the attacker may well not be the person in front of - they take their opportunity as the person in front distracts your attention). Often seemingly innocuous questions for example, ‘Could you tell me where this is please?’, ‘Don’t I know you?’, ‘Do you have the time?/a cigarette/some change etc?’ or ‘Is that your car/bike/phone etc?’ are used to distract you from the intention of the attacker and divert your attention towards an alternative stimulus. However their goal and need here is to get physically closer to you. Without closing the distance (assuming that they are not armed) the attacker cannot launch that intended assault. Maintaining distance between yourself and that person, being alert to any changes in that distance and attempts by them to get closer, should trigger you to immediate action and ESCAPE.
Use a Fence...
Allowing your awareness level to drop to code WHITE (becoming environmentally unaware) and therefore allowing your attacker(s) to get physically closer to you, vastly diminishes your opportunity to escape. Managing distance means being alert to changes in that distance and maintaining a 360 degree field awareness.
Presenting obstacles and challenges which assist you to control your personal space and distance is further key. Here we are concerned with building metaphorical ‘fences’ between ourselves and our attacker(s), placing a perceive or physical obstacle between them which make it more challenging for them to close that gap. These fences may be in the form of verbal commands and assertions (for example, “DON’T COME ANY CLOSER!”) or indeed physical barriers. In our workshops we investigate the management of distance suggested by personal defence expert Geoff Thompson. At a basic level we are literally keeping your attacker(s) at arms length, and whilst this over simplifies the opportunities that this position provides, it is essential to you retaining the opportunity to manage distance and escape.
Please do contact us for further information on our FREE personal defence workshops, providing insight into our methodology for personal defence and simple physical strategies.