It´ll be a relatively short one today. Criminals always seem to get a bad rap. For years I´ve continually seen martial arts instructors assuming and referring to the “dumb criminal.” Easy to take out, openly transparent on their motives, and deeply lacking in tactics in some way. Criminals evolve just as we do and most are hardly unintelligent in their “craft.” Remember that they often work daily at said craft and the reason they have such a high success-rate of victimization is due to that very fact.
“From the streets”, “street-savvy”, “street-wise”, when utlized here and in North America – likely everywhere – are terms often used to describe someone who´s slick, sly, and sharp; someone who won´t get taken to the cleaners on most days. They are complimentary terms used for regular civilians that have developed a sixth-sense for cons, scams, and schemes and know how to handle themselves in the face of street-level tactics of “doing business.” Yet when it comes to actual street-smart people that are involved in street-level crime, they tend to be neglected or trivialized as bumbling or incapable, at least in this industry. I hear it all the time and see it in demonstrations by martial arts instructors who perpetually make it look like all criminals are daft idiots – static attacks, one-dimensional attacks, unresponsive to stimuli, squaring-off on neutral ground, zero experience martially, and easily-manipulatable. Afraid that just isn´t the case.
They know how to read people, who´s bluffing or feigning confidence, who´s a legitimate threat to their goal. Here, at least, as that´s my current frame-of-reference, many criminals are quite intelligent, vastly experienced, blessed with ingenuity, and with constantly new and developing tactics and strategies, methods, and implementation. We´re not talking about standard IQ, but that very street-smart element. They´re very often extremely intelligent in their niche/environment. And, while there are always exceptions to the rule – and the “dumb criminal” does absolutely exist (the drug-addict, the neophyte, the simply unintelligent), generally the ones I´ve come across know how to read people, who´s bluffing or feigning confidence, and how to access a potential mark.
Let´s stop preparing for the dumbass. Let´s assume that they´re, at the bare minimum, our equal or even superior in terms of violence, aggression, and conflict. Remember that many have all day with which to perfect their craft and they learn “on-the-job.” Meaning? Their skills are generally pragmatic, tested, and utilized in real-time. As in real-life, there are echelons – pecking-orders – of criminal organizations and there are always those exceptions-to-the-rule that we mentioned above, but here you don´t get to the mid- of top-levels of an organization by being stupid, gullible, and ineffective at what you do. You get there by being street-savvy.
Now, to conclude, I am not putting “criminals” or street-folk on some pedestal or giving them credit for their actions, nor supporting said actions. I am, however, giving them the benefit of the doubt in terms of experience, cunning, and ruthlessness of goal. They are generally more experienced with their craft than the majority of martial artists. And, remember, they also don´t have the moral code that most of us abide by that restricts them in their actions either. Nor are they working with the legal framework or ethical/spiritual considerations. They´re mission statement is much broader and less streamlined, and no less adherent or clear. They know what they´re capable of and how far they´re willing to go to achieve it, unlike many in the industry. So, again, let´s start training with these things in-mind – it might alter your entire perception of what that training should entail.