Target Hardening (Part 2) – Special Considerations For Women

This post follows on from the previous post on Target Hardening (Part 1) but covers issues that predominantly (though not exclusively) effect women.  It would probably be beneficial to read Part 1 first then return to this post, it’ll make more sense that way.

Victims Of Sexual Abuse/Assault

Victims of sexual abuse, especially during childhood, or somebody that has been seriously sexually assaulted, sometimes want to make themselves less attractive; the rationale being that if the abusers find them less sexually attractive then they’re more likely to be left alone.  This can manifest itself by dressing down, taking less care of personal grooming and hygiene, or bad diet leading to weight increase.  Ironically, this can actually have the opposite effect as an experienced sexual predator will recognise these signals and will know that this is a person who less likely to fight back and less likely to report matters to the police.

As discussed in Part 1, having an air of confidence lowers your chances of being selected by any predator, be it a sexual predator or a mugger!  The same principles apply.  If the predator thinks you’ll fight back, maybe leave identifying marks on him (such as bruises or scratches), or that you’re more likely to scream and draw attention (witnesses), then it lowers your value as a target.  Taking care of your appearance, your grooming, your personal hygiene and health are all signs of confidence.  So the irony here is, a more attractive lady who takes a pride in her appearance is less likely to be attacked than an unattractive lady.  Lets face it ladies, you know you feel better when you’re looking your best.  And that feeling better transmits confidence!

I’m not suggesting that if you take a pride in your appearance and look good, then nothing will ever happen to you, there are too many random factors.  It’s all about lowering the odds!

Shouting For “Help”

Should you be attacked, it’s a good idea to actually shout the word “HELP”.  The reason being is that if people mistake your situation for a domestic where a man is assaulting his wife/partner, they may be more reluctant to get involved.  This is NOT because people think it’s ok, or she must have deserved it, or even because it’s none of their business.  Most normal men hate to see another man beating up a lady.  Most of us consider this to be the ultimate in cowardice.

Woman being stalkedThe reason people are reluctant to become involved is because so many times people have stepped in to help a lady in a domestic, then she closes ranks with the guy who’s just been beating her and together they turn on the third party who has intervened to help her.  I did hear of one case where a black couple where having a row and the man was hitting the woman.  A white guy stepped in to help the lady; they closed ranks and he ended up being charged with racist assault.  And the lady that he was trying to protect testified against him!  So ladies, if you want help, make it clear that you want help!  Whether it’s a domestic with your partner, sexual assault by a stranger, or a mugger; if it is appropriate to do so, shout loudly and clearly the word “HELP”.

Obviously the dynamic between the different types of assault are very different and a domestic argument which turns violent can be very public whereas a mugger will take care not to have witness around.  Nevertheless, should you resist a mugger and just shout and scream, it could be mistaken at first glance for a domestic and a potential helper/witness might just walk away so as not to get involved.  A clear call for “help” lets everybody know that you want them to get involved and that it is relatively safe (in that you won’t turn on them and testify against them) for them to get involved.

Don’t Get In The Car

One of the terrifying and dangerous scenarios of all for anybody, especially women, is if somebody pulls a weapon and demands that you to get into their car.  Under no circumstances whatever should you do so.

Firstly, ask yourself why does he want you to get into their car?

The reason is that the current location is not fully safe for him!  The location is his biggest weakness and therefore your biggest strength.  Going back to Part 1, the predator wants to be able to carry on hunting in the future.  This is not just a question of their physical dominance, it also means they have to take into account the chances of getting caught.  The current location is where they are most likely to be caught, challenged by a third party, or just have witnesses that can give vital information to the police.  This why he wants to remove you from that location to another location that is safe and secure for him.  Where he can do what he wants without interruption.

These are your real nasty’s; the rapists, torturers and serial killers.  If you get in that car and get taken his safe location, there is every chance that you could end up being murdered.

So what do you do, especially if he has a weapon and you know that you have no chance of overpowering them?

Well again, remembering that their main concern is getting caught.  So should he cut you or shoot you, then drag you into his car, then his car will be absolutely covered with forensic evidence (blood), which is not easy to clean out.  So he is not going to want to use that weapon on you at that time if they can help it.  It is mainly to intimidate you into compliance.  He is more likely to use any weapons at the other end.

The other thing is, should he shoot or stab you and then make his escape; it is a dangerous situation for you, but there is a chance that you might get medical attention.  I did hear the statistic some years ago (which I can’t verify) that if you are shot once, you have an 80% chance of surviving.  If you get into his car (even without injury at that time), I’d suggest that your chances of surviving are negligible!  So as much as it is a high risk strategy to refuse to get into the car, it’s an even higher risk strategy to actually get in.

Now there are 2 main strategies that you can use here.  One is to feign compliance to lull him into a false sense of security, then strike as hard as you can to a vital point and escape.  If you don’t think that is possible, then the other is simply shout and scream as loud as you can.  This will hopefully bring witnesses very quickly.  As mentioned above, should your attacker then shoot/stab you, he is unlikely to want you in his car providing loads of forensic evidence.  Also, the longer he struggles and wrestles with you to get you into his car, the longer there is for a witness to arrive.  Even if a witness only gets the make and colour of his car, that’s the net seriously tightened around him.

I know that this all sounds bleak, but again I refer you to Part 1 where I talk about awareness and not going into dark and lonely places.  Nobody is likely to try to force you into his car in busy well lit road.

Don’t Run Away From Danger, Run To Safety

As kids, if we’re in trouble with our parents, many of us will go to our bedroom.  If we’re at school and being bullied, we don’t always go to the teacher as we then get accused of being a “tell-tale” and the bullying can actually get worse, even if its more to do with exclusion and verbal abuse than actual physical assault.  So what do we do . . . . we find somewhere to hide.  We try to get away from danger.  But it’s still not really safe if we are followed or found.

This instinct stays with us even as adults.  So imagine a scenario where you’re been for a night out and you’re retuning to your car.  You notice somebody following you.  You automatically run to your car where you perceive you’ll be safe.  However, you fumble with you keys due to the adrenaline cruising through your body, you open the door, you get in, you pull the door shut, you fumble putting your keys in the ignition and turn it on, you’re just about to put it in gear when your door is opened and you’re grabbed.  Too late.  It actually takes more time than you realise to get into your car.  Time which you don’t have unless you have a very big head start.  And you’re not likely to have a big head start as the predator is not likely to start chasing you until he’s already fairly close to you.

If your car is not available, you might just run and look for somewhere to hide.  It’s instinctive.  But, unless you know the place really really well, you’ll have to select your hiding place very very quickly with hardly any thought or planning.  That means your hiding place probably isn’t very good and there’s a good chance that you might be found.

Rather than thinking of running away from danger, think of running to safety.

Run to the nearest well lit, crowded area that you can.  Remember they don’t want to get caught, they don’t want witnesses.  You can run to a shop, a pub, a factory or even just to a group of people.  Shout for help.  When you have to go home at night and you’re walking, try where possible to plan your route where there will be safe places.  If however, that is not possible and you are away from any pubs/businesses that you could run to and their is nobody around to help, look for a house to run to and knock loudly on the door shouting for help (especially if the lights or on).  It may be that you’ve run to the house of an elderly person who won’t be able to help you fight of a would be attacker, but the attacker doesn’t know that either.  And besides, they’re still a witness!

So; there is a lot to think about.  It’s all well and good to read this post and think that’s good . . . . . then forget about it.
I’d suggest that when you’re out for any reason, especially at night, make it a little exercise to identify safe places to run to.  Especially if it’s route you take often, that way should anything happen you won’t even have to think about where to run to for safety.  As a martial artist you may be thinking that running away is not what you train for and yes, it will go against the grain a bit.  But if you’re interested in real self-protection, this is how you should be thinking (and teaching).  The actual physical fighting side of things should be the last resort!

Self Protection Vs Political Correctness!

I’ve always believed that boys/men should respect girls/women and that girls should be brought up to EXPECT men to treat them with respect.  Women being treated with respect is not a privilege, it’s a right!

Please check out the video below.  In the Kenyan capital of Nairobi where rape is rife, a programme was introduced teaching girls to defend themselves and teaching “positive masculinity” to boys.  Within 6 sessions, boys attitudes Continue reading “Self Protection Vs Political Correctness!” »

Womens Self Defence Blogging Carnival

Welcome to the Blogging Carnival for Women’s Self Defense.  This is part of a series of blogging carnivals set up by Colin Wee of Joong Do Kwan.  I am honoured to be the host for this particular carnival.

Any self defense situation can obviously be very serious, but women’s self defense can carry the additional burden of sexual assault and rape which men don’t usually have to contend with.  This can leave emotional scars for a lifetime which affect a women’s self image, self esteem and her ability to make and maintain healthy relationships in the future.  Continue reading “Womens Self Defence Blogging Carnival” »

Womens Self Defense: Why It’s Different For Women

Women’s self defence requires  extra considerations to men’s self defence.  Sometimes they will face the same issues as a man, such as mugging  or possibly a same sex fight.  But with women there  is of course the issue of sexual predators which is not usually a consideration for men!  For men, it is most likely to be either a mugging or a dominance fight (“macho” men trying to show who is toughest).  Dominance fights do occur between women, but are far less common. Continue reading “Womens Self Defense: Why It’s Different For Women” »

Target Hardening Against A Street Predator

If you have experience of Reality Based Martial Arts, you will already have come across the idea of target hardening.  However, it is not always included in traditional martial arts, so although this is not a new concept, I include it here for traditionalists who may not have heard of it before.

If you look at the way that animals hunt in the wild, they nearly all follow a similar pattern; Continue reading “Target Hardening Against A Street Predator” »

Women’s Self Protection & Raw Power

I have written before about women’s primeval survival instincts which featured a video by Black Belt Hall Of Fame member, Melissa Soalt, otherwise known as “Dr Ruthless”.

The video below also features Dr Ruthless teaching self protection to women, most of whom are completely untrained in martial arts.  Although this video does not really include anything dramatically new, I think it is good (especially for women) to remind ourselves how powerful women can be with the right motivation and a real will to survive no matter what the odds.

As I mentioned in my previous article, society can teach women that they are the fair sex and weaker, sometimes giving the impression that they should not even try to fight back if attacked.  Woman are often taught that they don’t stand a chance.

However, just take a look at how much raw power untrained women can generate when they keep their heads instead of panicking and when they ignore any inappropriate social conditioning that might affect their personal safety.

Most predators look for an easy target.  Even  lions look to isolate a weak, old or injured buffalo from the herd; then don’t go for the strong young bull with the great big horns.  Why?  Because they don’t want to get hurt themselves, why would they?

A street predator (mugger/rapist) looking for a victim is just the same.  They select a target who they think will not put up much of a fight.  If it does become a real fight however, often they’ll back off as that is not what they are after.  Even though women generally may not be able to win an all out fight against a man, what is often overlooked is that most street predators are not looking for an all out fight.  Making as much noise as possible (like in the video below) is also a deterrent as the attacker knows that this will attract attention, which is the last thing that they want.

Of course this may not work against a drunk who is just looking for trouble and not thinking at all; but a mugger/rapist is more often sober and calculating and can potentially be even more dangerous.  So if he calculates that this target is too difficult or that the target will attract help from others, then they might just flee the scene.

So . . . . . respect to the ladies . . . . . give yourself more credit.

What Does An Ore, A Handbag & Half A Brick Have In Common?

The video below recently came to me via my Youtube subscription. It is the old Okinawan kata of Chikin Sunakake No Eiku by Akamine Hiroshi.  This is a weapon that originated from a humble oar.

There is a story of an old Okinawan master who was famed for being good with this weapon, who was repeatedly challenged by a Samurai.  He declined the challenges several times until eventually the Samurai confronted him and told him this it is, basically you fight or die.  As the Okinawan Master reluctantly picked up his oar, he used it flick sand into the Samurai’s eyes.  He then took advantage of the Samurai’s temporary blindness, to strike him in the throat with the oar, crushing his windpipe and killing him.  Very crude, simple, yet highly effective bunkai from such a basic weapon.

Not many of us are likely to carry around a oar these days just in case.  It’s not common to be confronted by a sword wielding Samurai either for that matter.  However, it does make a good point of using everyday implements as a makeshift weapon.  That is a principle that we can use today, even if we don’t practice traditional weapons.

Imagine if your home was broken into and you were attacked (or you had to defend your loved ones), what could you use around you as a weapon.  How about a photo frame on the mantlepiece?  Or a pen/pencil on your desk?  Could you use a fruit bowl to fend of blows or even hit with it.  Do you have chairs that are small enough pick up swing around.  Of course if you’re in the kitchen then there are many more potential weapons.

But have you ever stopped to look around your house (in every room) and see what you could pick up and use in an emergency? Then of course, have you ever practiced a few strikes with it, or even made up your own little kata?

Then of course what about when you’re out?  There’s the obvious ones like bottles and glasses.  How about an ash tray or a pool que.

When Shotokan Karate was still quite young in Europe, women did not have to free fight for their black belt.  Instead they had to perform self defence techniques.  One scenario commonly used was that they would carry a handbag that the “mugger” would have to try to take from her.  He would do this by grabbing her wrist with one hand trying to take the bag with the other hand.  The defence was the twist the wrist and pull back the hand, then continue the movement in, up over the top and come down striking the top of the head with the handbag (third movement in Heian Shodan/Pinan Nidan, normally ending in a hammer-fist . . . . without the handbag).

At an early grading I took, my class was told the following story by the late Ray Fuller (our grading examiner).  When his then wife, Pauline, who at that time was the highest ranking woman Karateka in Europe took her 1st Dan black belt, they demonstrated that particular defence.  When she struck him over the head with the handbag, she knocked him out cold.  He later asked her what the **** she had in the handbag?  She apparently said “half a brick”.  He asked why, to which she allegedly said, “to make it look good”.

Well women carry many things in their handbags, maybe some will start carrying half a brick now!!

Although I’ve always found that an amusing story, it does show how an effective weapon can be made out quite ordinary things.  It does make sense to look around your home, your workplace, places you socialise to see what can used as a weapon in case of emergencies.  In the home at least, it is also a good idea to pick them up now and then and make up your own little katas with them.  It does not have to as sophisticated as the oar kata below, but just being used to handling any object that could become an unsuspected weapon could be the deciding factor.

Women’s Self Protection: Primal Instincts

I come across this video below from a Facebook friend.  It is from the woman’s self protection perspective.  One of the main things that I liked about it is that it makes the point that self defence is a primal instinct, which we all have the capacity for.

When severely threatened we can all resort to the most primitive and basic animal instincts, which is savage, brutal and barbaric.  Civilisation has taught us to control such instincts.  In many cases it even teaches us to bury them completely.  This is especially true of women, where they are encouraged to be feminine (which is considered exactly the opposite of getting down and dirty and in a fight).

Things have improved over the years.  As a kid I remember that the role of a woman in an action film was to get into trouble, scream lots and be rescued by the male hero.  Nowadays women are portrayed as far more capable and independent . . . . . . . and rightly so.

Women in martial arts used to be a tiny minority.  They still are in the minority, but they make up a bigger percentage today then when I first started back in the late 70’s.   Although perceptions have changed and many prejudices have been overcome (still more to go), many women still have this cultural conditioning which bury their primal instincts.

Some years ago, I helped a friend, Wayne Badbury (from Kamon Wing Chun) doing a self protection course for women.  I was one of the stooges to be hit.  I had a kind of crash helmet, cricket shin pads and body armour.  It was like an early primitive version of the FAST Defence.  I had to provoke the women into an emotional response and then be hit.  I have to say that I was quite amazed at how hard some of these women hit when actually emotionally aroused (with fear).  I would not have liked to be hit like that without the protection and most men would not have been able to withstand it for long.

I hope I don’t offend anybody here, but these women in the emotional state hit harder and were more scary than a lot of female martial artists that I’ve trained with.  Most times that I’ve sparred with women, I’ve felt obliged to tone it down a bit (masculine cultural programming).  I will say that this is not always the case.  I remember once trying out a new club and being partnered to fight a female 3rd Dan.  I thought “OK, take it easy”, but the second we started she jumped in and hit me reverse punch.  “OK”, I thought, “I’ll go up a gear”.

Now some people may think that I’m sexist, but that same lady 3rd Dan later admitted that she too had to tone it down with most other women.  Now don’t get me wrong, I not suggesting that the guys should be laying into the women and knocking them about, far from it.  What I am suggesting is that if women can overlook some of their social conditioning, they’ll find they are much tougher then they think they are and are much more capable of physically fighting of an attacker then they think they are.

One of the most primal functions of a woman’s body is child birth.  Most men could not take that level of pain, yet many women do it over and over again.  Women have far more depths and capacity then most men give them credit for.  For that matter, they have far more depth and capacity then most women give themselves credit for.  Having the will to fight back (if necessary) does not detract from feminism (as some social conditioning may have women believe).  In fact many men actually have more respect for and are more attracted to a strong willed & spirited woman.

Ironically, many women would without hesitation fight to the death to protect their child, but not for themselves.  Don’t let social conditioning set you up to be a victim.

Turning To The Dark Side And Mama Bear!

OK, the title may sound a bit bizarre, but bare with me and all will become clear.  I hope.

Why is it that although martial arts are supposed to make us better, calmer, more relaxed people; that some of us actually enjoy practicing violent applications that can hurt, maim or possibly kill another human being?  Is it some deep down psychopathic instinct that some of us just can’t overcome?

The fact that some of us enjoy practicing the violent applications does not mean that we are violent people.  However, to enjoy practicing them and to be able to apply them effectively, one must be able to dig down into the darker part of our human nature.  We must delve into that part of us that is prepared to hurt, cripple and destroy another human being.  This is what I (tongue in cheek) loosely refer to as “turning to the dark side”.

I must emphasise that there is an enormous difference between being prepared to harm another human being (depending on circumstances) and wanting to harm another human being.

So why, when we are striving to become better people, do we actively look to engage and develop this “dark side” of our human nature?

Firstly, whether you are religious or not, Western society is dominated by Christian values and doctrine.  As such, so much of our behaviour is considered right and wrong, good and evil.  Basically it is a culture of opposites, you must be one or the other.  However, Eastern philosophies and even our own pre-Christian Pagan philosophies would often see things more as two sides of the same coin rather than opposites.  A balance.  Yin and Yang.

By engaging the “dark side” of our nature, we are actually more able to avoid confrontations by our outer confidence, as well as being more able to help others in distress.  To quote from Spiderman, “with great power comes great responsibility”.  The flip side is that you cannot assume the great responsibility if you do not have the great power.  Spiderman’s ability to help and save people in danger (light side) came from his enormous strength and his ability to beat the living s**t out of the bad guys (dark side).

Now I’m not suggesting that we will become superhero’s by practicing martial arts and save people from marauding villains.  However, along with our increased ability to defend ourselves (do violence to some b******d that seriously deserves it) comes a special kind of confidence.  A confidence which ironically will sometimes allows us handle situations more assertively, so that we actually don’t have to resort to violence.

When training in the nastier applications, even in a friendly environment, many people still find it difficult to delve into that dark part of their nature and hence find it more difficult to make the applications work properly.  As a youth, I was very timid, so I’ve been there.  Now at 40 something years old and with years of Karate training, it comes much more naturally to me.

For somebody who is (for want of a better word) “timid” or uncomfortable with these applications, I would like to make some suggestions.  When you look at a thug trying to intimidate someone, there is a big display of “peacocking”, sticking their chest out like Dolly Parton, jutting their head forward, arms loose from the sides like a cowboy about to go for his gun.  That part is not too important.  What is more important is that typically they invade the other persons personal space to intimidate and emotionally control them.  The victim will typically respond by drawing back, pulling their arms into their body and making their own personal space as small as possible.  This is actually quite a key tactic that thugs use instinctively.  Why?  Because it’s effective.

When practicing self defence techniques, experienced martial artists will happily move into their training partners space; whilst the more timid people will tend to pull back.  It is because the more timid person wants to get away, whereas the more experienced person will seek to take control (just like the thug/victim scenario above).

Using a bunkai/Chi-na example, imagine an “attacker” grabs the “defenders” wrist with a cross grab (right hand to right wrist – or left to left).  The defender traps the attackers grabbing hand with their own free hand, then moves both hands in a circle to apply the lock.  The more confident “defenders” move slightly forward as they perform the technique, circling their hand near to the attackers body.  This locks both the “attackers” elbow and wrist at right angles, making the lock easy to apply.  The more timid people tend to perform the technique by circling their hands much closer to their own body.  This resulted in both the “attackers” elbow and wrist not quite reaching the 90 angles and the lock being more difficult to apply.

The “victim” way of thinking, is simply to pull back and escape.  It makes the self defence techniques more difficult to apply and less effective.  I would suggest to anybody struggling with this, is that you have to think “control” before you think “escape”.  If you escape, but have not put your opponent out of action, they will simply chase you.  Think like the street thug, go into your opponent’s personal space and control them.  Then your escape will be much easier.

Having said that, how does a small or timid person actually manage to access that “dark side”, in order to move in and control somebody?  How do you turn your fear, dread and longing to escape into the will to move in and take control of somebody who is bigger, stronger and intent on hurting you?

Well if I can focus on women here for a minute, they are often told, “imagine somebody is going to rape you”.  I would respectfully suggest that this can be a bit counter-productive as any woman faced with a would-be rapist is just going to want to get away even more, rather than to invade his personal space and get closer; which unfortunately is what is required for many self defence techniques.  I would suggest a different image.  Imagine that your child (or niece, nephew, friends child) is in danger and you are the only one there to protect that child.  Now you have to go in rather than run away.  Nothing in the world is more ferocious than a Mama bear when somebody messes with her cubs.  To learn self defence against bigger, stronger men, sometimes you have to bring out the “Mama bear” in a woman.  Even professional burglars will avoid breaking into houses with kids, because they know that mothers will fight to the death to protect a child.

As much as your instinct may tell you to draw back, escape and run away when you are threatened, you may need to disable your opponent before you can run so that they don’t run after you.  That means you have to find your dark spot inside your soul, you have to access your inner “Mama bear” and you have to be prepared to go into your opponent before you go out.  And as mentioned above, training like this leads to confidence, which leads to assertiveness, which in turn can defuses a situation before it kicks off.

Although many senior instructors are very proficient in their martial applications, you can see by the way that they teach their students that many of them have a very nurturing and caring side to their natures.  Despite years of Karate training, I consider myself to be a very gentle person.  Some people may consider this to be contradictory.  Those who have trained for many years will consider it a natural consequence of our training.  That’s the paradox.  These traits are not opposites, they are the balance.  The Yin and Yang.

All martial methods come with a code.  The knights of old had their chivalry, to protect the weak.  The ancient Samurai would sacrifice themselves without question for their master or their masters family.

Many of today’s martial arts from Japan and Korea end in “Do” (Judo, Kendo, Aikido, Tae Kwon Do, No Can Do etc).  The “Do” means “way”.  And by “way”, they mean a way to self development, self improvement and even self enlightenment.

All of these codes mean that although the individual develops fighting skills which can potentially destroy other human beings, they are better people and better members of their society.  One might argue about the brutality of the Samurai (who would not hesitate to kill women and children of an enemy clan), but in the society that they lived in, unquestioning loyalty and total obedience was expected.  They were therefore, very good members of their society.  In today’s society, the “Do” expects you to be a more altruist and caring person.

It is the balance.