Monday, September 19, 2005

"You're holding it wrong!"

I saw something on TV today that gave me a flashback to college.

No, not that kind of flashback. I didn’t have one of THOSE college experiences…my mum would’ve killed me, and trust me, my mum’s got radar.

No, the show was all about self defence for women.

What this reminded me of was a lazy Thursday afternoon. I had a couple of free periods directly after lunch, so me and some friends were sitting in the refectory, just shooting the shit. The conversation slowly turned around to one of the girls, who was talking about the self-defence course she’d just finished. According to her, it was the greatest thing ever, she could walk the streets without fear, and was ready to kick some ass.

So I asked her to show me something she’d learned. So she said she’d show me how she’d defend herself against a knife attack.

So I found a ‘knife’ (a ruler from my rucksack), and I held it in front of me, ready to do the required slow-mo attack.

“You’re not holding it right.” She said.

What? Not holding it right? Surely an attacker is going to use his personal preference? I was holding my ‘knife’ with the ‘blade’ coming out of the top of my hand…a position that gives me the most options, I can stab, slash and keep the blade under control…not limit myself to one telegraphed stabbing motion that would leave me open to attack and off-balance.

“Hold it in a fist above your head.” She explained, You know, the way that leaves you with only one option, and telegraphs what you’re going to do a good week before you do it.

“Nah, I’ll hold it like this.” I said.

“But you’re supposed to hold it like I just said!”

Suddenly, I had a vision. Mr. Mugger, Mr. Rapist or Mr. Plain-old psycho attacking this girl, and her stopping him and telling him the way he’s supposed to attack her:

“Err, Mr. Psycho? I’m meant to have my left hand free, and you’re meant to stand where I can stamp your instep, and follow up with a punch to the balls!”

“Am I? Sorry. I’m new at this. I usually just knock you out, rape you and take your money…but this is much more interesting!”

I mean, what’s the point?

I’m sorry, ladies out there, but I think those self defence classes are the most useless things in the world.

Now while I think ANY self-defence training is better than none, your run of the mill 3 week self-defence course is not only useless, but is dangerous as well.

You see, plenty of women go to these things, spend a couple of hours learning to defend themselves from a guy covered in padding, who attacks them with rubber knives in perfectly choreographed routines…and leave feeling like superwoman.

The truth is, life isn’t choreographed, knives aren’t made from rubber and the majority of women don’t stand a chance against your average man, just because they’ve had a few hours training.

Now before I get flamed to hell for being sexist, let me explain myself.

I’m 6”1 tall, and weigh roughly 250lbs. If someone my size decided to attack or mug a female, there’s not much they could do in a fight against me. Yes, I know that there are some women who could very easily crush me into a fine powder, but in general, your average man is just simply stronger than your average female. If you weigh 120lbs, and you’re around 5 foot 5, you just don’t have the body weight and strength to hurt me…yes, lots of training, learning where the pressure points are, and gaining the speed to get to them before I can react makes the odds a little more even...but a fight is still inadvisable.

These quick-fix self defence courses teach plain stupid things as well. Shout “NO!” in an authoritative voice. That’s not going to scare anyone. Maybe screaming "HELP! HELP! I'M BEING ATTACKED!" would be of more use.

One of the most stupid things I ever heard was to put your car keys in your hand, with the tip of the key protruding from between your knuckles, kinda like a home made knuckle duster.

Great, not only is this woman going to get attacked, she’s going to get her car stolen as well.

A 110lb woman attacking a burly mugger with her car keys is like shooting a grizzly with a .22, all it's going to do is piss him off.

The worst thing is they teach how to defend against very specific attacks. You hit here, here then here, and when he does this, do that. What happens instead of doing ‘this‘, I decide to do ‘that’ instead?

Unfortunately, your attacker didn’t take the same course you did, and likes to improvise a little. Seriously, only a retard attacks someone with a knife in the classic over the head stabbing motion. It lets their victim know exactly what they’re going to do, is very easily blocked or dodged, and knocks you off balance and leaves you vulnerable.

The one thing they don’t teach is the best self defence move you can learn…Run away while screaming at the top of your lungs.

I’m not just saying all this for the ‘benefit’ of the ladies out there. It doesn’t matter if you’re a black belt at karate, or how big you are, running away is always the best possible option. It may not be very macho or manly…but I’d rather be a live coward than a dead hero.

To illustrate my point, here’s a direct quote I read from a book on the British Special Forces, spoken by their hand to hand combat instructor:

“Forget martial arts. They may help a little, but if you’re going up against someone twice your size and weight, knowing a few fancy punches and kicks isn’t going to help very much. Look at this guy (he points to a trainee, 6”7 and over 300lbs of muscle)…If he decides he wants to hurt me, there’s not a lot I can do…other than bite his nose off and run away.”

I had the “Karate” argument with a guy I used to work with. He said that because he was a black belt, he could beat up anyone…despite the fact he was only just over 5 feet tall. I told him to give me his best punch. So he wound up, punch my stomach…and I just stood there. Don’t get me wrong, it hurt, but it wouldn’t have stopped me in a real fight, ad I let him prepare and throw his most ‘perfect‘ punch.

You see, it doesn’t matter how many techniques you know, if your attacker doesn’t let you use them. If I was fighting a martial artist who was weaker physically than me, I’d just grab them, hold them down, and let them tire themselves out. Yes, self defence training may give you a few more options to get out of my hold, and they may work. But if I have you down on the floor, arms and legs pinned, and I’m repeatedly head butting you in the face…you’re not going to have much of a chance.

Now, I’m not saying that ALL self defence classes are completely useless, whether it’s a three week special, or a lifetime of kung-fu. Any training is better than none. The truth is that any fight between you and an attacker is unpredictable. While you’re going for that neck pressure point, he might just stick a knife between your ribs. The big problem is that the quick-fix self defence courses always assume that the attacker is dumb. If an attacker grabs your from behind, there’s a damn good chance he’s not going to leave you an arm free, his head perfectly placed for a backwards head-butt or his groin unprotected.

I’ve just read over what I’ve written, and I don’t want to come across as saying “Learn anything you want, I’m invincible!” I’m not saying that at all. What I’m saying applies to you, applies to me as well. I could learn all the martial arts I wanted…it’s not going to help very much against a guy who is bigger and stronger than me.

Basically, If I had to give anyone advice on how to defend themselves, here’s what I’d say:

Rule #1 : Run the fuck away!

Your first objective isn’t to fight, it’s to get away. If you can, run away, while making the most unholy racket you can. This counts if it’s after midnight or the middle of the day. Chances are, you can’t overpower your attacker, but you can out run him, and no attacker wants to be seen chasing after anyone who‘s screaming for help, and your screams will attract attention. Forget the ‘personal attack alarm’, a scream is unmistakable. A high pitched alarm will simply have most folks bitching about someones car alarm, and turning their TV’s up.

This is a good thing even when it looks like you could easily beat seven colours of shit out of your attacker. He could have a knife, and gun, of 10 buddies waiting around the corner.

I’ve read about lots of cases of kidnapping on crowded streets where someone has stepped out of a car, pulled a gun, and ordered someone into a car. Do the same thing, run and scream. You see, attempted kidnapping doesn’t have nearly as heavy a sentence as shooting someone in a crowded street filled with witnesses.

Rule #2: If you’re cornered, and just being robbed, give the robber whatever they want.

This isn’t just for women. If I was walking down the street and a guy stepped out of an alley and demanded my wallet…the fucker can have it. Yeah, it might look like I can take him, but like I said above, he also might have a knife, a gun, or 5 other people waiting around the corner. In this situation, your life could literally be on the line. I’d rather be alive to miss the contents of my wallet, than have it in my cold, dead hand.

Rule #3 : If you absolutely HAVE to fight, fight dirty.

‘Rules’ to fighting only belong in one place…professional sports. In real life, bite, scratch, gouge and go for the nuts.

Forget ‘fair‘. Fair implies that both parties have an equal chance. If the guy’s attempting to rob/kill/rape you, you want every advantage you can... if that means spitting in his eye, biting his nose off, before stamping on his balls…go for it.

Defending yourself is all about one thing. Putting your attacker down. The point is to take away his ability to harm you as soon as possible. Yes, it may be more ‘manly’ to trade punches, but a stiff kick to the balls is going to stop him from hitting you much, much sooner…and that’s the point.

Rule #4 : If your country or state allows it, carry pepper spray, a stun gun, or an actual firearm.

It doesn’t matter how big or strong your opponent is. With a face full of pepper spray, 100,000 volts passing through them, or a bullet put through their head, they’re only going one place…and that’s down.

This brings me to guns. If you’re going to carry one, make sure you know how to use it and practice regularly. There’s no point carrying a gun if you don’t know how to use is, and don’t know how to aim. Many people advise against carrying a gun, as ‘it could get taken away from you, and used on you’.

This is just plain stupid. It implies that a gun in your enemies hands in an insurmountable weapon, yet a gun in your hands is a liability. Crap. Plain and simple. If someone pulls a gun on you, it’s a good idea to have one to pull on them. Also, if they pull a knife, pointing a gun at them is going to make them shit their pants and do whatever you say. Also, having a gun doesn’t mean you have to kill someone. Personally, if it came down to a choice of an attackers life or mine…sorry, but it’s his. I’m not going to apologise for killing someone to prevent them from killing me. However, if your attacker isn’t carrying a gun, but is trying to stab you, or otherwise putting your life in imminent danger, a shot to a kneecap will stop anyone.

The two best pieces of advice I can give about self-defence weapons are:

Carry them all the time. Treat them like a condom. It’s better to have one and not need it, than to need it and not have one.

When it comes to lethal weapons, such as a handgun, pull it only if you intend to use it. If you’re only going to pull a gun to intimidate an attacker, leave it at home. This is how a gun CAN be taken from you and used against you. Only pull out a weapon if you fully intend to pull the trigger if you need to. To be honest, I think a gun is only advisable if that’s you’re only choice. Pepper spray does the same job (stopping an attacker from being able to harm you, and is non-lethal.

In short, I suppose my whole point is that self-defence classes can be useful. However, they just add another tool to your self-defence toolkit. If you come away from an self-defence class feeling ‘invincible’…you’re just plain wrong.


robmcj said...

If I'm ever attacked, I'll be making use of my tai chi training, so long as the attacker doesn't move too fast.

If I had a handgun, I'd practice target shooting with the gun still in my pocket. Sure, it would ruin some perfectly good clothes, but what a life-saving trick, being able to shoot someone accurately in the kneecap without even showing the gun.

Miz S said...

If you are close enough to them to know their intentions are not good- a weapon won't do you much good. And remember- a weapon that isn't used properly and quickly can-and WILL- be taken from you and used ON you.

Like Paulius says- the best defense is to get away from them- Barring that- fight DIRTY and as soon as they are down- GET AWAY.
Don't think you will stay and get in a few more hits or kicks- GET AWAY and make as much noise as possible while you're doing it!!.

Perdita said...

What a long post.
Yes, for the most part, I could agree these "types" of classes are pointless...
but even the pointless ones will teach someone to walk with a purpose, be aware and make eye contact.

That alone can save someone from ever finding themselves in a situation where they do have to feel like super "person".

And it's FIRE not Help. Most everyone is a gawker...not so many heros.

Perdita said...

ps: great post. Too funny. Your holding it wrong.

Miz S said...

Maybe to some of the people it's FIRE- but to most of us it would be HELP- Who the hell is going to be thinking clearly enough in that situation to think "Don't forget- yell FIRE!" instead of what we really need? Which is HELP!

Get real.

OzzyC said...

Awesome post, Paulius. You're preaching stuff that I've been saying for years... especially the part about fighting dirty. I hate fighting. But if I've got to do it, I'm not gonna fight to look good, or to win... I'm gonna fight to survive. That means I'm gonna scratch eyes, kick nuts, punch throats, or whatever else is required to walk away with all of my body parts intact.

Perdita is right about the "FIRE!" thing. People in modern American society will just as frequently turn away when they hear "HELP!" as they will do anything else. Americans don't want to get involved. But everyone wants to see fires, car accidents, and the like, so yelling "FIRE!" is a good move. People will come to see, and the bad guy will likely run, cuz he doesn't want to be noticed. That said though, I agree that most people will yell "HELP!"

Paulius said...

I don't suggest shouting 'fire' or 'help'. People may ignore help, and running and houting fire is a great way to get people running the opposite way...when you want them running towards you.

Especially for females, the best thing is a simple loud as you can.

Better still, shouting something like "Look! A minor celebrity doing something totally not interesting." will make sure the whole event is photographed by the paparazzi.

Oh, and as I pointed out Perdita, I actually said 'any training is better than none''s just a lot of the time people wait to attack a certain pressure point or something, instead of 'giving it toes'.

xtiml said...

nice but one mistake, never aim to maim or cripple as in shooting a knee cap.allways aim for the chest heart area unless you be real good, allways shoot to kill. and allways never be a doodoo head.