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Modern Self-Defense

By James Wilkinson

Despite the hard work of modern law enforcement, the police are at best a reactionary force. That is, they usually become involved after a victim is stabbed or raped or attacked. In the best of circumstances, assuming a call was even made, the average response time is at least several minutes which is sufficient for personal attacks to occur. This is just one of the many reasons why the realistic man, women, youth or senior should be familiar with modern self-defense principles and techniques.

If a women is raped, 7 times out of 10 it is by someone she knows. Assaults will happen in the home, parking lot, school yard, classroom (remember Dunblane, Scotland) street, in our cars, elevator or just about anywhere any of us will go. Your chances of being a victim of a personal assault are higher if you are a youth, woman or senior but adult men and women are victims. Actually, one of the greatest factors in being a victim is the belief that we won't ever be attacked or assaulted one day.

Understanding the psychology of confrontations is the first step in protecting ourselves. We will be attacked because a predator wants one of 3 things: our property (wallet, purse, etc) our body (rape or simple violence) or our lives. Predators, or would be attackers, look for "prey behaviour" or individuals who are the easiest to attack. The easiest people to attack are those of us who believe we won't be. A nurse (in her 50's) in Ottawa was returning home one night and was beaten to death in the lobby of her apartment building, a middle-income area, her face beaten almost beyond recognition. All that was taken was money from her purse. Apparently the attacker, arrested after attacking another women the same night, was waiting for her in the lobby. This woman probably saw the murderer as she entered the building. Was she suspicious? Did she choose to believe that he couldn't be a possible attacker and therefore was totally unprepared when the attack occurred?

The first step is learning how to detect potentially risky situations or predators. Walking alone on dark or out of the way streets, reading a book or listening to a walkman while walking, letting someone into your house without verifying id, etc. How easy do we make it for someone to attack us? Who is standing around us at the bus stop or parking lot or street? Are we being followed? Do we assume we could never be attacked by someone in our own homes or by someone we know? About 1 of every 5 murders are committed by family members and domestic violence rates speak for themselves. Just by being aware of factors which increase our chances of being attacked we can avoid potential situations.

Assuming you are being stalked for a possible assault or were the incidental choice of random violence, could you do anything to defuse the confrontation? When confronted with angry or frustrated individuals whether its the other driver in an accident, a drunk or bully at a bar, or even a family member, we often act in a way to further excite this person rather than calm then down. By yelling back or becoming equally aggressive or pushy many confrontations in our day to day lives are elevated by our own actions.

The same speech patterns which can be used to calm down a relative, friend or the "other driver" are also strategic for the actual predator on the street. Once contact has been made, predators still often need the emotional build-up to assault even if this only takes a few seconds. How an intended victim reacts can raise or lower this emotional build-up. The right words and body language may dissuade this person or at least buy us some time to get over our surprise. Being submissive and trying to evoke a feeling of sympathy in our would be attackers is sometimes enough to avoid violence. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to offend you" or "your right, I've made a mistake, it's my fault" or "please, it's only been 2 weeks since my operation I'm still not well" are just some examples of evoking sympathy.

But they also can be used to give us an advantage. Its normal that when we feel threatened we raise our hands in front of us in a submissive posture (palms out, about shoulder height) while mouthing the words "please don't hurt me". This instinctive position is also offers strategic defensive and offensive techniques and is quite effective in lulling a predator into a false sense of relief that you don't know how to fight and you don't even want to. If our opponent is not a serious predator but simply a drunk or bully then our submissive posture and speech is usually enough to calm him and avoid a violent situation. If not, they are effective in gaining time to react from our initial surprise and prepare to defend ourselves.

Even though we try to avoid confrontations or try to defuse them, a motivated attacker will still attack. What will you do to defend yourself? We all have a mind and a body and therefore have great potential in protecting ourselves. But our actual capacity, that is what we could do right now (if you were attacked while reading this article, for example), is based on how we have prepared ourselves and what we have practised.

Fear is our biggest opponent in defending ourselves and it will always be present in any encounter. Some individuals spend a great deal of time perfecting techniques but never address the issue of their fear. Our arms and legs don't move of their own accord, we move them. If we haven't dealt with our fear, then we will still be victims when faced with real encounters on the street. There are more people who have successfully defended themselves without previous martial art training than there are those with martial art training. Therefore our emotional preparation is just as important, or even more so than, our physical preparation.

Any techniques you choose to learn and practice should be based on how you will be attacked and how you will need to defend yourself. They be to be employable in a variety of circumstances as we can't predict exactly how we'll ever be attacked (sitting, on the ground, surprised, etc.). Many attacks will happen in close quarters (within your arm's reach) and your training should encompass this range.

A self-defense system should enable the participant to develop effective detecting, defusing and defending skills. If prepared, we need not live our lives in fear but in satisfaction that we have done all we can to make ourselves and those we love safe.

James Wilkinson is a specialist in self defense. He can be reached at: Optimum Self-Defense Systems 723-1070.

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