Avoidance is the very first in a long list of tactical maneuvers aimed at 'not being there' when an attack is taking place. And it really is very simple, even obvious, but I find it is the 'simple' and 'obvious' stuff that usually gets overlooked and lands people in an affray that should never have occurred. These tactics are not to be read and stored, rather they are to be read and practiced over and over again until they are natural, everyday habits, like getting into the car and putting on your seat-belt, (something that once had to be forced is now a habit). In fact, I bet if you tried driving without a seat belt it would feel awkward after wearing one for so long. Avoidance is being aware, understanding the enemy, understanding yourself and understanding your environment. If you are training in a martial art, then avoidance is understanding that art and whether it will stand up to the threat of a real encounter. More than anything, avoidance is having enough control over yourself, your ego, your pride, peer pressure, morality etc. to stop these negative emotions
from dragging you into a situation that could otherwise be avoided.
Many people find themselves fighting because they are worried about what others might think if they run away. If you are very confident in yourself and you know your capabilities you will have no problem walking away, or simply not being there in the first place. Insecure people, those that are not sure of themselves or their art, will be fighting all day long because they lack the strength of character to go against popular opinion. This is often the case with martial artists (no offense intended), especially high graded ones. They are frequently on such a high pedestal (placed there by themselves, or by their own pupils) that they drag themselves into fights that could/should be avoided, because they are worried about letting their students down in some way. This is often their own fault because they have taught a 'corporal' system that only addresses the physical response -the ultimate accolade being a KO when attacked by an assailant.
I understand this; it is a syndrome that I too went through as a young instructor. As a man that has 'been there', my ideals have changed and whilst the physical response is, obviously, still on my training curriculum, it is no longer my main artillery, neither is the physical ippon (KO) my main aim. Rather my goal is to defeat an opponent without becoming physical.
In theory, I am aware that this aim is simple and straightforward, in reality in a confrontational society such as ours it is not so easy -a tremendous amount of self-control and confidence is needed to make this lofty goal an actuality. This is predominantly why I make my personal system of combat such a difficult one: to develop this confidence and control. This is also the reason why our motto is the latin 'Per Ardua Et Astra' (through hardship to the stars), and why such people as the American Dog brothers work with the motto 'higher consciousness through harder contact'.
Jeff Cooper, legendary American close combat and shooting instructor (known on the circuit as this generation's closest thing to Wyatt Earp), was once asked how you would know if your art was effective for street defence or self-protection. His reply was simple: when you are worried about hurting, perhaps killing another human being because your technique is so potent, then you know your art is real.
Do you feel that way, or are you still worrying/wondering whether your art will in fact even work in that arena? If your feelings fall into the latter category it is worth injecting a little more pressure in your training and putting your system to the test in the controlled arena, by taking it as close to the real thing (under supervision) as possible. This can also mean watching extreme fighting tapes to see how the innovators are doing it.
The key phrase for avoidance in contemporary self-protection is 'Target Hardening'. By making yourself a hard target, you lessen your chances of being chosen as a potential victim. I once interviewed a group of burglars, I asked them for their prime requisite when selecting a house to rob. This was their response:
Many burglars rob the same house three or more times, because the owners do nothing to stop them. Self-protection works in a similar vein. If you make yourself a hard target by following the rules of awareness, you too will by by-passed for an 'easier target'. If you don't you will be chosen again and again.
The contemporary enemy likes to work via dialogue and deception. An understanding the enemy and his rituals is imperative, if you are ever going to avoid his onslaught (see Dead Or Alive). So many people these days say that they train for self-defence -yet they know nothing about the enemy that they are training to fight or the environment that they are planning to fight in -then they wonder why they get their heads kicked in when a situation goes 'live'. Many such people ask me, 'Where did I go wrong?' I have a profound love for people, for my species, and I don't want to see innocent people getting battered when they could so easily, with a little information, have avoided a physical scenario. Here are a few of the things that I have picked up on my travels about the modern enemy. Note: It is important here to stress one point, fighting in the street is rarely match fighting. Most affrays of the modern era are 'three second fights': attacks preceded by dialogue that is used as a leading technique to create a window of entry for a devastating physical attack, that usually takes the victim out of the game before he even knows that he is in it.
Match fighting, as honourable as it is, is an arena that died with my fathers' generation. If you do find yourself in a match fight scenario I will bet my trousers that the fight will go to ground within seconds (most fighters are grossly ill prepared for ground fighting). If the three second fight goes more that the usual three, then in all likelihood this too will end up in a match fight that will end on the floor. If you can ground fight, great, you can tear the guy a new arse. If you can't you should expect at the very least an elongated fight, perhaps even a brutal loss. If the guy is not on his own and you are facing two or more opponents then you can expect to be hospitalised, even killed. Two of my friends were stabbed by women when they were ground fighting with men.
Ambush fighting is what you get nine times out of ten if you are not switched on, or coded up, as they say (see colour codes). An ambush fight is when the first you know of the fight is a physical attack. If the guy who attacks you is worth his salt as a street fighter then that first blow is likely to be the last in the fight and you should get used to hospital food because that's what you will be getting. If you are switched on to the enemy and the environment yourself, then you will avoid nearly all of the potential attacks. Those that are unavoidable, you will be able to control, those beyond your control you will be able to defend against.
The four D's are often used by attackers, especially muggers and rapists. 'Dialogue' is the priming tool, the leading technique used by many attackers. The attacker does not lead or open with a jab or a lead leg roundhouse, he leads with dialogue, and is often either aggressive or very deceptive. If you do not understand this then you will be suckered into the first attack. Dialogue, and often appearance, Is used to 'deceive' the victim before attack. Nearly every attack I have ever documented that was not a blind side, ambush attack (the ones that happen when you do not use awareness) always arose through deception -the attacker using this as a window of entry. The rule of thumb with the unsolicited attacker is if his lips move he's lying. If anyone approaches, it is imperative that you employ a protective fence immediately (see 'fence' later). Most attacks are launched under the guise of deception, for the street fighter 'that's the art', you might moan that it is dishonourable, a Judas attack, unfair etc. but the bottom line will still be the same -he won and you lost. The fact that you might think it dishonourable demonstrates your lack of understanding of the modern enemy. There is no honour in war, and this is war in microcosm.
'Distraction' is a part of deception and usually comes through dialogue. The attacker may ask his victim a question and then initiate attack when the brain is engaged. The distraction, or brain engagement, also switches off any inbuilt spontaneous, physical response the victim may have. A man with twenty years of physical training in a fighting art under his belt can be stripped of his ability by this simple ploy. I have witnessed many trained fighters, who are monsters in the controlled arena, get beaten by a guy with only an ounce of their physical ability. How? They were distracted before the attack. Rob, a hardened street fighter and nightclub doorman always told his potential attackers that he didn't want to fight before he attacked them. Invariably they would come around from their unconscious stupor, after Rob had knocked them unconscious, some seconds later muttering 'I'm sure he said he didn't want to fight!'
If the distraction is submissive; 'I don't want any trouble, can we talk about it?' This will take your assailant from Code Red (when a person is ready for 'fight' or 'flight') to Code White (a state of non-awareness). The submissiveness will intimate that the danger is over and he'll go into a state of relief. Brain engagement, via disarming/distracting dialogue gives the victim a 'blind second'. This is when the assailant strikes. The distraction technique is also used by the experienced attacker to take down any protective fences that may have been constructed by the victim. This final product of expert priming is your destruction. Few victims survive the first physical blow and most are 'out of the game', before they even realise that they are in it, because many street attackers are pro's with one or two physical techniques that have been tried, tested and perfected on numerous, previous victims.
Even trained martial artists get fooled by the four D's, because they do not appear on their training curriculum. Therefore, they do not understand the enemy that they are facing and so also fail to grasp -and therefore translate -'street speak', the mass deception often causing disorientation. The attacker uses the former and latter to prime a victim that is only trained in 'physical response'. As I have already stated, deceptive dialogue is the professional attacker's leading technique. Understanding this will allow you greater awareness, it will keep you 'switched on'. Being switched on to all of the forgoing is the better part of 'Target Hardening'.
If and when a situation does become 'live', it is again Imperative that you understand yourself and what will happen to your body in its preparation for fight or flight. You will usually experience a huge injection of adrenaline (and other stress homlones) into the system (adrenal dump). Adrenaline can add speed, strength and anaesthesia to response but, unfortunately, because very few people have regular exposure to the adrenal syndrome their reasoning process often mistakes it for fear. Consequently many people 'freeze' under its influence. Therefore a profound understanding of fear needs to be sought. If you can't control the person on the inside then it is safe to say that you cannot control the person on the out side (the attacker).
Jeff Cooper devised a colour coding system to help recognise, evaluate and subsequently avoid potential threat. The codes are a yardstick designed to measure rising threat and, if adhered to, make most situations become avoidable. Cooper designed the codes of awareness to allow people a 360 degree environmental awareness. What I would like to add to this, with respect to the great man, is also awareness of attack ritual, physical reality and of bodily reactions to confrontation -after all awareness is a complex thing.
Code White is known as 'switched off, unaware of environment, inhabitants and their ritual of attack. Code White is the victim state that all attackers look for. They usually don't have to look far because most people are completely switched off most of the time.
Code Yellow is threat awareness. Known as 'switched on', this state of perception allows 360 degree peripheral awareness of environmental vulnerability. For example the awareness of secluded doorways, entries etc. and the psychological dangers of untested physical artillery (self-defence techniques that have not been pressure tested)
adrenal dump, attackers rituals etc. Initially, Code Yellow is similar to commentary driving, where you talk through and describe, as you drive, everything you can see around you. Similarly, as you walk, run a subconscious commentary of everything that is happening in your locale, ultimately, with practice, managing the same without verbalising the commentary. Code Yellow is the state of mind which everyone adopts whilst crossing a busy road. It is not a state of paranoia, rather a state of heightened observance.
Code Orange represents rising threat, allowing evaluation if circumstances in your locale deteriorate. For instance, you may, as you walk, notice a couple of suspicious-looking men over the road from you. If they begin to cross in your direction with menacing intent, and you feel there is a possible threat, Code Orange will allow assessment and evaluation of the situation.
Code Red is the final stage. You have evaluated the situation in Code Orange. If there is a threat, prepare to fight or run. Never stand and fight if there is a possibility of flight. If no threat presents itself, drop back to Orange and Yellow. Never lose your awareness and drop to White -many people have been beaten in real situations because they have lost their zanshin (awareness). Stay switched on.
Of course this whole system works on the premise that you are in Code Yellow in the first place. You cannot go into an evaluation state on a situation that you have not noticed developing, equally you cannot prepare for fight or flight if you have not seen and evaluated the same. In this case the first you are likely to know of the situation is when it is too late. The same applies with the following rules, if you are 'switched off none of them are likely to apply, you need to be in Code Yellow (switched on) to make any use of them at all. So in all cases, 'Code Up'.
Avoid the places that are trouble spots. Don't drink in shit holes or eat in late night Indian restaurants that attract those who have just left (or have been kicked out of) a nightclub. Try and avoid frequenting areas that are rough, and if you have to, make sure that you are totally switched on at all times.
I have no problem with my ego, I won't be drawn into a road rage incident because some lemon stole the piece of road in front of me, or cut me up, or sped past me etc. My mum always told me (it must be true because mums don't lie) that there is no rush to the graveyard. Therefore, if the spanner in front wants my space, I'm quite happy to let him
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have it; if he is flashing me to let him past, I'll let him past; if he beeps me or gives me the finger then I'll let it go. I already know where these situations are going to take me and I don't want to go there. I've been there before and believe me there are no winners. Incidents like this can change the course of your life if you let them. You kill someone, inadvertently in a road rage incident then you might as well stick your head between your legs and kiss your arse goodbye. And the little son or daughter that you have at home waiting for you, the beautiful wife that dotes on you, you can kiss them goodbye for 10-15 years as well.
One of my friends was driving home from a restaurant one night with his mate and their girlfriends. Quite legitimately they overtook a car on a quiet country road. The guy in the other car took offence to this and, pretended to swerve into my friend. I'm pretty sure that he only did it to scare my mate, nevertheless he thought that the guy was actually going to hit his car. He reacted by turning sharply to the right to avoid what he thought was going to be a collision and smashed his car up the bank. His beautiful girlfriend was thrown from the car and killed instantly. The other female passenger was thrown out of the other window and suffered terrible injuries, not least of which was total blindness in one eye. Both the male passengers were also badly injured. All of this happened because a driver took offence at someone overtaking him. When Karen died in that car crash a small part of many people, myself included, died with her. The man in the offending car will have to live with the death of Karen for the rest of his life.
Another friend of mine has just committed a crime of passion -one that could have been ignored if it wasn't for his very large ego -that will place him in jail for at least 10 years. By the time he is released, if the experience doesn't kill him, his schoolgirl daughter will probably be a married woman with kids of her own. His wife will have probably moved on and married someone else, very few wait around. He has gone in to jail in his late thirties, the prime of his life, when he is released he will be approaching fifty. His business, to which he devoted himself, has already gone down the drain.
Think about it for a single second, not being able to be with your wife and kids for ten years, not being able to walk in the park; go for a pizza; drink a pint; cuddle up to your wife in her silk nightie. Doesn't the very thought frighten the shit out of you? It frightens me.
If I get into a fight and have to hurt someone, I want the reason to be a better one than protecting a space by the bar, or a piece of tarmac on a country road. I want to be lying in my bed thinking to myself, 'I had no other option open to me but to fight'. There is a heavy toll to pay for participating in a fight and, if you are morally in the wrong, the bill that drops through the door can be very exacting. Once again, we return to the fact that your system should be real, if it is, and you pressure test what you have, then the confidence it brings will be enough to enable you to walk away -it will make you strong enough to over ride peer pressure and ego.
A pivotal part of understanding the enemy is realising that he probably doesn't understand himself very well. When he gives you the finger in the car, or stares at you aggressively across a busy bar it's not personal, unless of course you make it so. You are a manifestation of whatever it is in his life that makes him angry: his dominant wife; his bullying boss; his car that keeps breaking down or his adolescent children. You become a displacement figure for the things in life that cause him stress. It's only because we take these incidents personally that we find ourselves being drawn into contentious situations. If you think about it, that's probably why you find yourself getting angry with people (especially those closest to you), over little or nothing -you are also displacing your unutilised aggression.
The combination of our confrontational society and increasing amounts of neurological stressors means that we are bound to develop pent-up aggression. Stores of stress hormones sit waiting to be released by our behaviour, awaiting the right trigger to let them go off with a bang. That trigger might be a minor traffic incident, it may be some lemon staring at you across the bar, or something as simple as one of your children spilling juice on the carpet. Once triggered, the pent-up aggression explodes in an uncontrolled manner that can change the course of your life, for the worse, forever.
Understanding the enemy means comprehending that, 'it's not personal' and that, if a situation becomes physical there are no winners. Once you understand the psyche of the person or people that you are dealing with, you will probably understand them better than they understand themselves. In an instant you will be able to see and understand the run of their whole life and that it, like so many, is on a downward spiral to oblivion. Don't you find that very sad? Doesn't it make you feel a little compassion for these people? Not only do they not understand where they are going wrong, they will probably never understand and their whole life will unravel in the same unfortunate way. Don't take it personally, let it go, let them off! Their lives are already shit without you making it worse.
I know what you will be saying, and I know what you mean. Just because it isn't personal doesn't mean that these people are not dangerous. Off course they are all potential killers, but usually only if you engage them and play the game that they want to play. The majority of the time these situations are benign until we counter their initial aggression, either because of our ego, some misdirected need to cleanse the world of bad people or the fact that we are reacting to the situation in a displaced manner ourselves. Imagine two guys, lets call them Joe and Pete, beating the crap out of each other over a minor a traffic incident. But they are not really fighting with each other. Pete is really battering his bullying boss and Joe is really battering his domineering wife. When they end up in court together neither will really be sure why they were fighting in the first place.
I consider my art to be hugely effective, I have pressure tested it to the full. I have worked my art on numerous occasions in real situations, so I can look at these minor altercations and let them go, knowing that I am letting the other guy off. It doesn't matter to me that he might think he has put one over on me, backed me down or that I have bottled it. I don't care what he thinks, or anyone else for that matter. I know the truth, I know that if forced I would have hurt that person very badly.
If displacement is in your face and you can't walk away, if your can't avoid, escape, dissuade, posture, loophole etc., then you may be forced to exercise your right to self-defence. Your karma will then be good and you will only be doing what you have to do. Perhaps as Benny 'the jet' Urquidiz suggested to me last year, they were sent by God for a lesson. Whatever the reason, you know that justification was your ally and that's enough.
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