You’re surrounded by killers while pretending you are not

Just this weekend, I taught a self-defense course for teenage girls ages 17-18. It was set up after the recent murder of Julie Van Espen here in Belgium, which sparked outrage and shock throughout the population. A concerned parent went beyond just that and did what most people don’t do: he took action. Through a mutual friend, he got in touch with me and we discussed the course before setting it up. I talked about how prevention and avoidance is at the heart of it and how the girls shouldn’t expect to be bad-ass Wonder Woman warriors at the end of it. He understood and communicated this clearly to the parents of all the participants.

During the course, I had to burst some bubbles about self-defense and what it means to keep yourself safe. This happens every time I teach a new group, as most people have a very distorted view of the realities of violence. To be clear, this is through no fault of their own.  We simply live in historically unprecedented low levels of violence for a large portion of the population: it’s been 75 years since the last war over here, which hasn’t happened in at least a millennium.  In daily life, most people are also not confronted with violence. It just isn’t a part of their lives. So it’s no wonder they have erroneous information and opinions on it.

It’s my job to punch a hole in those myths and try to recalibrate their world view.

There are many aspects to doing that in a way one that actually gets results instead of resistance. That is also difficult, at best, as it encompasses lots of information. For example:

Most (unfortunately, not all) teenage girls have not yet experienced what it is like to have an adult male use his full strength against them.

Even if they have fought with boys before, those kinds of conflicts rarely escalate to that point. What’s more, an adult male is at a different strength level than a teenage boy, and it is a completely different experience when facing the one instead of the other.  For instance, an adult man has on average 70% more upper body strength and 50% lower body strength. Those numbers should give you pause as a woman/girl, but experiencing it is a whole other dimension of understanding.

To get them startedon that path, I show them the video of a man viciously attacking two young women, striking them like he would another man. Then I take the most athletic girl in the group in a (gentle) bear hug and lock my arms so there is no more give in them. Then she can do whatever she wants to break free.

She never does.

I am above average strong and have experience handling people who don’t want to be handled. In this case, the girl increasingly realized she was stuck and at my mercy and began to feel uncomfortable. Which is when I immediately let her go. I obviously made sure I didn’t hurt her, nor let her hurt herself trying to get out.

Then I repeated my point that as a woman, fighting head-on against a man is generally a losing proposition. The odds are against you as there are factors beyond your control that put you at a distinct disadvantage. Once the girls finished expressing their “that’s not fair!” outrage, I explained that this is why the prevention and avoidance techniques I spent most of the course teaching and roleplaying with them are so important: If you can avoid a fight in which you have terrible odds, then that’s a win. You only fight when you have no other choice. But when you do, you do so with all you’ve got because you know just how much trouble you’re in.

As an aside, the smallest girl of the group understood that just fine. She hit the pads with ferocity and had no problem simulating deep eye gouges while wrenching the attacker’s neck. Though her stature makes her more of a target, she has the right mindset when it comes to defending herself…

As another aside, if you have teenage girls or young women you want to keep safe, give them my podcast episode on Self-defense tips for young women

Click the image for the video

Another example, and the point of this post:

The murder of Julie Van Espen is at the extreme end of the violence scale and is not the norm. Teenage girls are more likely to face other acts of violence, but a stone-cold killer is more horrifying than those. So it is natural to focus on that specific danger and ignore the other kinds that are more of a direct threat. I explained the statistics of violence and how unlikely they are to become the victim of such an extreme crime. Obviously, they should not ignore the possibility, but there are more common threats and prevention is the best approach in all cases.

What I didn’t talk about is the part I’ll mention here, as that’s a message for adults: [Read more…]

Violence, death and common sense

This two-minute video is making the rounds here in Europe. It’s self-explanatory, just watch it:

 

A few thoughts:

  • I find it interesting that the uploader claims the officer “belittles” the drivers. Merriam-Webster defines that verb as such: “to cause (a person or thing) to seem little or less.” I’d say that is not at all what happens here. The officer isn’t making them feel little or less, he’s making them feel shame and rightfully so in my opinion. More in a bit.
  • Why is there a big problem with gawking or rubbernecking, you might say? It’s dangerous and causes accidents, that’s why. It creates traffic jams due to the sudden slowing down, which causes accidents. It also makes drivers distracted and makes them hit dividers or other cars as they pass the site of the crash. I drive over 50.000km per year here in Belgium, which already has loads of traffic jams and it’s getting worse. Due to the way our highways are structured and being the crossroads of Europe, I get to experience dangerous traffic situations on a daily basis. I’ve seen this kind of thing happen repeatedly.
  • Some people find the officer’s actions problematic. I don’t really have an issue with them. We can argue how effective they are in making people understand their dangerous behavior. Personally, I can see the benefits. The main one is that it can raise awareness of dangers and how your own actions can cause danger to others. More below.
  • Some examples I wrote throughout the years:
  • If that isn’t enough, here’s another video. I did some research and it is apparently a real event, despite how it looks like he’s in front of a green screen. Notice the look on his face when he realizes what happened…

[Read more…]

Self-defense, perspectives on it and the nature of learning

One of my students has led an interesting life. Some of the things he’s done:
  • He went jogging on the West Bank and was shot at as a result. He’s not Jewish, but he resembles one a bit through the scope of a sniper rifle.
  • A child soldier, high as a kite on sniffing glue, pointed an AK-47 at him and accused him of being a spy. He then talked his way out if it.
  • African villagers almost slaughtered him and his companion after the companion drove over a goat that belonged to a local (for whom selling its milk was that guy’s only source of income…) He did the right thing to defuse the situaiton and they got invited to the feast where the goat would be shared by all.
  • He got violently ambushed by a gang on a remote road in Asia and got him and his girlfriend out of it and to safety.
  • There’s more, but I’ll leave it at that.
 
Despite all this, he still doubts his self-defense skills.
 
My response during a call earlier today was that a large portion of Westerners would be in therapy for years after just one of those incidents, let alone several.
He doesn’t even think about it anymore.
Self-defense, perspective and learning
There are two points I’d like to make:
  • Self-defense is in many ways a matter of perspective. When faced with coming this close to getting murdered, some people never fully recover after they make it through. Others do so without any lasting consequences. These are two extremes, on opposite ends of the scale of possibilities. There is a lot of middle ground. Where we all fall on that spectrum depends on many factors. The point is that there is more than one truth when it comes to trauma when facing violence, recovery, and PTSD.
  • Violence is a broad topic. There are many aspects of it that apply across the globe and are found in all cultures. But there are also lots of differences and these matter just as much. Those of you who’ve been following me for a while have heard that before
    It then follows that nobody is an expert on violence as a whole. Experiences and training are individual. They don’t necessarily apply across the board. I can’t count the number of times I thought things were a certain way and then, later on, found out I was wrong. Case in point. I assume this will continue to happen. Hopefully, the mistakes will become fewer and with more time in between. Achieving that would be an achievement in its own right, as I’d like to continue learning until I die.

 

Conclusion

Everybody lives a unique life. One that comes with a unique perspective on self-defense, depending on the accumulated sum of those personal experiences. Each of us has an individual truth about self-defense as a result. When your truth conflicts with mine, that doesn’t automatically invalidate either (or both) of them.  The trick is figuring out what you can learn, which aspects you can translate to your own context and what is not applicable at all.

If any of you ever fully figure out that trick, let me know…

 

P.S.: First, many of you have asked so here’s an update. I’m currently writing the last chapter of my Boxing For Self-Defense book. I hope to finish it this week and then the editing and formatting can begin. When I have a release date, I’ll anounce it here and on my social media.

The second most asked question on this: it will be a three volume series of books. There is too much information to cover and cramming it in one book would force me to price it too high for most people. I want my stuff to be afordable and reasonably priced. I don’t know when the other two volumes will be released, given as I still have to write them…

Book review: Musings on Violence: Martial Arts, Self-Defense, Law Enforcement, Warriorhood by Loren W. Christensen

A few weeks ago, I finished reading Loren Christensen’s latest book: Musings on Violence : Martial Arts, Self-Defense, Law Enforcement, Warriorhood. In it, Loren looks back on the last 50 years of his life and he shares  the lessons he learned. The best way to view this book is as a peek inside Loren life, memories and mind. He takes you on a wild ride of all the things he encountered when it comes to violence. Not just as a law enforcement officer but also as a martial artist.

He shares numerous anecdotes and stories of the adventures he lived through. Some of them are hilarious, others are heartbreaking, with a lot of middle ground between these two extremes. Regardless, they all let you look at different aspects of violence, preparing for it and dealing with the aftermath.

Musings on Violence - Martial Arts, Self-Defense, Law Enforcement, Warriorhood by Loren W Christensen

Loren also shares insights and tips on how you can train for handling the kinds of situations he describes. He offers a truckload of valuable and practical information, all of it hard-earned.

It ranges from how to become faster and develop more flexibility to how you should hit the liver to get the best results. Or how you can control your fear when working as a police officer. These are just a handful of examples; the book is filled with so many more.

I’ve known Loren for over 20 years now, have read all his books, we talked both in person, on the phone and via email too many times to count, and I still learned some new things about him. So I’m pretty confident you will too and the same goes for the information he shares:

There’s just so much of it that you’re bound to pick up a few new tricks and concepts.

 

The book is divided into several sections:

  • Martial arts
  • Self-defense
  • Law enforcement
  • Warriorhood

Each section covers numerous topics and tips and you can just read them all in one go if you like. But in my opinioon, the best way to read his book is like this:

  • First, read all the way through. That’ll help you get an overall sense of the information in this book. You’ll probably latch onto one or two things during each reading session; apply these in your next training session.
  • Then, pick it up on a regular basis and just page through it until you find something that inspires you to take a closer look. Read that part and apply in your training once again.
  • Keep on doing that until you’ve covered everything. There’s so much content in this book, it’ll take a few years…

In short, I highly recommend this book and you buy it right here.

 

Note: This review was first published in my Patreon newsletter of June 2018. To receive the upcoming newsletters, sign up at Yellow Belt level or above right here.