Thursday, May 3, 2007

Google Martial Arts

If you "Google" "martial arts training" you willreceive 2,250,000 hits for various schools, video's and courses. Those courses will teach any number of techniques that the "experts" tell you will get you out of a dangerous situation.

Many of the people that learn from these courses, schools etc. will actually leave the course in more danger than they arrived. Why? The reason is that they mistakenly feel confident in their skills.

There is a well-known interaction between a self-defense expert and a student who had attended another seminar. The student proudly stated that having completed the course, she feels more comfortable walking through the park in the evening to get home. The instructor correctly pointed out that the course was garbage. If the course had been worth the cost of admission, the woman would have avoided the dangerous park.

If awareness and the ability to recognize and avoid risks are not part of a course, then you should carefully examine the value of the course. The best self-defense is to not be there.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Lessons From Virginia Tech

There have been some in the media that have been critical of the response of the victims in the Virginia Tech shooting and have offered suggestions as to what they should have done. They have also offered the strategies that they are sure that they would have used which would have ultimately saved their lives. To be critical of someone's response in such a situation shows either an insensitivity to the nature of such an event or a poor understanding of how the human body responds to such an event.

Have you ever been startled and felt your adrenaline pump, felt your heart rate increase, and felt frozen in place at the same time? This is the closest sensation to what these people may have experienced in this situation. They were frozen, caught off-guard and paralyzed by their body's response to the traumatic and terrifying events around them. It is quite likely that those with the brave and strategic suggestions would have found themselves in the same situation.

Without being critical of those who lost their lives in this horrific event, there are some lessons that we can learn from this tragedy. One of the most crucial lessons to self-protection is awareness. The people in the classrooms were most likely turned off to any possibility of a threat to their safety. While this is understandable, this event, along with many we may see on the nightly news, should tell us that we should not completely let our guard down. I do not mean that we should live in a constant state of fear, but many people that refuse to seriously consider the possibility that they may encounter a violent person have paid money for fire alarms and have security alarms on their cars and homes. Despite these efforts, people frequently do not give serious consideration to what their plan would be if they were ever actually confronted. Schools do fire drills; we look for the exits on airplanes and can probably recite the safety demonstrations; we wear seatbelts, but how many people ever consider an escape route from a restaurant in case a person enters with the intent of doing harm?

We have all heard that we should be aware of our surroundings, but what does that mean and what difference does it really make? Being aware allows you to avoid that feeling of being frozen by your adrenaline response. If you're aware that you are never free of risk, it is much more likely that you have considered an avenue of escape. In addition, awareness makes it much more likely that you recognize the signs a person gives that they are preparing to attack prior to actually seeing a weapon or being assaulted. Having not been present at the time, I can not say whether the recognition of the attackers body language would have allowed enough time for him to be subdued or disarmed, but it would have made it much more likely.

It is also important to note that some people were able to escape by jumping out of windows. There is a lesson to be learned here as well. We should always consider the possible options for escape. We should plan for how we would get out of the house if a person kicked in the front door. We should look for back doors to restaurants. We should not pull too close to the car in front of us at traffic lights so that we have room to turn and drive away if a threatening person begins to move toward our car. Hopefully, you will never be confronted by such a situation, but having a plan will make you much more likely to survive in case you do find yourself in danger.