Guest post by Roxanne Griswold of Ready Made Resources.
For the better part of half my life, I was, to a perpetrator, the perfect, unsuspecting victim. I had all the key elements for an easy take down: Though I was physically fit, I lacked situational awareness, the proper mindset and the necessary skills to defend myself in the event of an attack. Sad to say, I embodied the average woman. And I can’t even use the excuse, “I was young and stupid,” for what I know today can be taught, learned and applied at any age.
If you’re fortunate enough to have been trained in the art of self defense from childhood, more power to you, but women are typically indoctrinated from youth that fighting is for men and that they lack the physical dominance and strength to defend themselves. Although this may be true to a point, personal self defense is not measured by the size of your muscles, but rather by possessing the proper mindset to perceive a threat, execute the proper skills to overcome the threat, and purpose, as much as it depends on you, to never to leave with your attacker to a “secondary crime scene”. If your mindset is such that physical strength matters more than these principles to ensure your safety, then you’ve missed the point. Personal self defense has little to do with strength.
Let’s face it gals (and guys), times are rapidly changing for the worse, and as morality and the economy continue to spiral downward, so does your security. You cannot depend on your safety to the government, your local law enforcement and, even in some cases, your own family. No matter how well meaning they might be, what if they simply are not there in time when you’re face to face with an attacker? You must possess these self defense skills for yourself.
There are three essential principles we must adhere to in a self-defense situation if we expect to overcome the odds of being injured, or worse yet, killed.
Principle #1: First and foremost, we must possess the proper mindset to perceive a threat by maintaining situational awareness of our immediate surroundings.
Most attacks are perpetrated upon easy prey. What do I mean? Try to get inside the mind of this evil person. Would he prefer someone who holds her head high with confidence, keys in hand, scanning the horizon for anything unusual, or one who obviously has her mind on other things, shuffling to her car, cell phone glued to her ear, fumbling for her keys, clueless? The first would be a fighter; the latter, a vulnerable target. See it from the perpetrator’s perspective, and don’t give him what he wants.
How do we do this practically? Train your mind to be proactive and aware. Study people as they’re approaching you; look at what they’re holding, how they carry themselves. Make eye contact (it demonstrates confidence), and try to perceive their possible intent by their response to that contact. Know what is behind you, beside you and even in front of you. Glance under, around and inside your car before entering. Never park next to a van with tinted windows or no side windows or beside a car with suspicious passengers. Notice anything out of the ordinary. Trust your intuition. Oftentimes while driving, my husband will ask me, “Without looking, what color is the car behind you?” Or, “What was that man wearing who just passed by us in the grocery store?” At times it seems somewhat silly or even nosy, but I believe it’s these practice drills that may one day save my life.
The late Jeff Cooper, author, president and founder of The American Pistol Institute, developed what he called the “Color Code of Readiness”. The White Zone is when someone is oblivious of his or her surroundings and immediate environment, typical of the one I described earlier. The Yellow Zone signifies someone who has situational awareness, conscious of everything within her visual reach, ready. At Orange Zone, the person is alert, perceives a threat and has already determined to act if need be, and finally, at Red Zone, the person has actually encountered a specific threat that poses immediate consequences to her personal safety. At this point, she should fight or take flight using clear, concise verbal commands and movement. If you want to dramatically increase your odds from avoiding or evading a threat all together, you must purposely be on guard at yellow, orange and red zones, depending on the severity of the threat. Never, under any circumstance, choose to live in the White Zone. To do so could reap severe penalties.
Being situationally aware also means making wise choices and taking extra precautions even in ordinary and suspicious situations. In everyday practical living, be aware of the person watching your transactions, such as showing your driver’s license to the cashier while some shady character behind you gets a quick glance at all your personal information.
While driving or on foot, be aware of the person or car behind you. A good rule of thumb is this: If you’re being trailed behind after three consecutive right turns, there’s a good chance you are being followed. Do NOT go home at this point, lest you reveal your place of residence to this possible perpetrator. Drive to a well-lit, populated area like a large gas station, or better yet, the police department! Assuming you have a cell phone, you may even want to call 911 if you fear for your safety.
Principle #2: We must execute the proper skills to overcome the threat by honing some hands-on self defense techniques now. What good will it do for you to practice the first principle but at some point fail and find yourself pinned to the ground by your attacker with a gun to your head, or feel the icy edge of a knife at your throat from behind. Trust me, you don’t want to end up there! This is where practical personal defense training becomes critical.
So where do you begin? Though the mere sight of a handgun intimidates many women, it’s a good place to start. The only way to overcome the fear of the unknown is to gain a working, practical knowledge of the thing you fear. Contrary to popular belief, guns aren’t dangerous. It’s the criminal behind them, or those who simply do not understand the basics of handgun safety, who pose a danger.
To be any earthly good in a deadly situation, you have to be comfortable with defending yourself, and this begins with practice. Get involved. Contact your local police department, like I did with my first exposure to handgun training, and inquire about any self-defense training offered. Check online or your Yellow Book pages. Many gun stores also have an indoor shooting range you can use for a nominal fee. In varying locales, there are outdoor shooting ranges and gun clubs available. With a little inquiry, you will find that you are not alone. There are many women just like you with varying interests and from all walks of life who share the same belief: We cannot depend on others for our safety in a world of increasing moral, social and economic decline. Self-defense training starts somewhere, and the practical skills of using a handgun are just one of them.
Though a handgun can bring a sense of security in an otherwise dangerous world, it cannot always protect you. What if you simply forget to carry it on your person or you cannot get to your weapon prior to the attack? What if your attacker is able to knock the gun out of your hand, or fear arrests you and you simply cannot maintain the collectiveness to shoot with precision? These are real questions to ponder because if they happen, you risk becoming a victim. Though handgun training is crucial, honing other self defense techniques can be a wise backup plan. Self-defense is not for the weak and winded. In order to preserve yourself in a deadly situation, your physical body must be prepared. Going to the gym, lifting weights, taking an aerobics class or running on a tread mill provides some physical stamina the body needs in order to resist exhaustion in the heat of an attack, but even that is not enough.
Imagine this scenario and try to envision yourself here. You’re walking nonchalantly toward your car thinking about the events of the day when suddenly your arm is clasped from behind and pulled forcefully downward. Your head crashes against the unforgiving concrete. Blood gushes from your nose. Before you have a moment to think, your attacker is now on top of you, beating your face with open fists. Gasping for air from fear and excruciating pain, you scream and slap him in an aimless attempt to protect yourself, by which time he has secured your flailing arms while pressing a knife against your throat. Subdued under the weight of his body, you have nowhere else to turn. You are the next victim.
This is a frightening scenario and chances are you will not win unless you are prepared for it ahead of time. You do not have to be the next victim and your fate is truly up to you. Rewind the scene: what if you knew how to break the fall when landing on the ground so that you did not injure yourself? What if you knew how to defend yourself effectively on the ground with controlled breathing techniques while countering the attack to your eventual escape? This is what body conditioning and self defense training like martial arts can do for you.
If you’ve never experienced a “simulated attack,” including some of the pain involved with a real attack, then you’ll never know what to expect. In a simulated attack, you learn techniques to defend yourself against any punch, kick, grab or throw. If your attacker knows how to counter your defense, there is also a counter to his counter. These techniques are traditionally taught in many martial arts schools. Jujutsu and Judo are just two of many styles that involve grappling and ground techniques which I believe is where self-defense is most practical. Ground self-defense techniques are so important for the obvious reason that the majority of all attacks end up on the ground at some point. The key is knowing what to do when you’re there. As Master Larry Hartsook, Eagle Karate, so aptly puts it and is part of his martial arts school motto, “Look into the technique and find your way out”.
Some other self-defense techniques involve turning the tables on your attacker by giving him the opposite of what he expects. It’s called diversion. First, you fain fear and vulnerability by acting incompetent only long enough for him to let his guard down, then with ruthless aggression you divert or attack. Your action at that moment will beat his reaction. For instance, if your attacker towers in front of you with a gun or knife, spewing out words of profanity in an effort to get what he wants, you hold up your hands and plead for your life. Before he has time to blink an eye, swiftly step to the side, blocking the barrel of the gun with the outside of your wrist. Your immediate intent is a counterattack once the gun is out of his reach or escape. Another technique is attack by combination: For instance, the attacker attempts to grab you from the front, you execute a knee strike to the groin; his hands drop to protect himself while you eye gouge or throat strike him; repeat the process. Be ruthless. Be aggressive. Surprise even yourself, but never give in. Follow through.
There are many ways to prepare your body for action, but martial arts ranks highest in my opinion. It creates confidence and fosters self-esteem in one’s ability to face fear with tenacity and resolve. It also builds endurance and tolerance of pain. I’m used to bumps, bruises and broken bones, fingers and toes, mind you, but it still hurts! When faced with your attacker, don’t be afraid of pain. Though pain may seem like your enemy now, it may one day be your friend. Learn to endure it so you can easily overcome it when it really matters most.
In addition to physical training, mental preparedness is just as important, and this leads us to our third principle. Never, under any circumstance, as much as it depends on you, leave with your attacker to a “secondary crime scene”. At some point of an attack, you may be subdued and dragged against your will to a vehicle or threatened with a weapon to drive to some remote place. Your attacker has no sympathy at this point, not that he ever did, but you are almost certain to be his next victim if you ever submit.
Many of you may remember the Channon Christian/Christopher Newsom case in Knoxville, Tennessee, where this young couple was carjacked at gunpoint, bound and taken to a rundown rental house. One can only imagine the horror of being tortured, repeatedly raped and finally murdered. In fact, the details are too heinous to even speak of. I cannot write this and not feel immense pain for them and their families, especially when I realize these vicious, inhumane acts of violence quite possibly could have been avoided.
The point is don’t ever surrender or submit, even with a gun to your head, to leaving the premise in order to go to some other place. Your chances of survival are far greater if you run away while your perpetrator attempts to shoot you or to jump out of a moving vehicle if you find yourself already in the car with your attacker.
This happened to a young lady I met years ago who’d also taken the same self defense classes I had. Leaving the mall parking lot one evening she got into her car, ready to put the key in the ignition when she felt a knife against her throat from behind. He demanded she move to the passenger’s side while he jumped into the driver’s seat and sped away. Frightened, she somehow maintained her initial cool, but more importantly, she remembered Principle #3. Opening the door, she jumped out while the car was still moving. Though hospitalized with a few cuts and bruises, she is still alive today. Yes, leaping out of a moving vehicle may break bones, but submitting to the animal that has no intention of keeping you alive after he’s satisfied his primal urges, is playing with fire.
It may seem overwhelming to think that even you can learn and apply these three principals. First, you need to know that physical strength is secondary to overcoming the obstacles of self defense. If you become increasingly aware of your immediate surroundings while honing the necessary self-defense skills to ward off an attack, you will dramatically increase your chances of survival, and even if you are subdued, to determine now that you will never submit to your perpetrator’s attempt to take you to a secondary crime scene. Though it’s good to set realistic expectations when it comes to your personal self-defense, don’t let idleness keep you from doing nothing at all. Just make a commitment that you will start somewhere and follow through until your proficiency outweighs your feelings of inadequacy, fears and doubts.
© Copyrighted by Roxanne Griswold
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