WALKING THE KNIFE’S EDGE

Let’s take an honest look at knife usage for self-defense. I know I’m breaking my own rule by writing an article on knife-combat but it’ll be worth the hypocrisy, I assure you. There is likely no single bigger misunderstood element….and most often that misunderstanding comes from the instructor part of this equation – not the public, as it’s so often attributed. (Where do they get their misunderstandings…I wonder…)

So, in real-life case studies, what do we see playing out in the real-world?

BLADED-DEFENSE? I’ve seen a handful (maaaybe 2 handfuls) of public case studies where knife usage in a self-defense situation was defended successfully in a court-of-law. Note that these were generally a-l-l after lawyer-retention, court-case, hourly lawyer rates, some jail-time until trial, social stigmas, life on-hold, psychological trauma, and all the other elements that went with that successful defense. I have yet to see one knife defense where legal-case/police-intervention/serious-outcome didn’t end in this way in a public environment. Note also that most were the weapon-of-choice – carried for purposes of self-defense, not weapons-of-opportunity. They are rare in the grand scheme of things. Extremely rare.

The line of legality and public stigma of using a blade against someone without one (regardless of advantage-discrepancy) is pretty steep. How we see most bladed-arts handle this is almost always via the murder or permanent-damage route. 16-cut combos, biomechanical maiming, lethal targeting….over-excess of brutality that would and will be seen as overkill in the court-of-law by judge, jury, lawyers, and public. Are there times where these can be successful legally? Yes, there are documented case-studies, as mentioned above. What aided in them be deemed “successful” (in spite of the above byproducts)? Superior forces – multiple opponents, bigger/trained/notoriously-violent/male attack on female victim/younger/armed opponent(s), immediate threat to life, you exhausting all other possibilities. (see ability/opportunity/intent/preclusion tenet present in most Western countries, generally included even here in Costa Rica as well)

DUELS? Simply do not happen very often outside of prison or in lower-class rural areas of (most often) undeveloped nations, sometimes in developed ones though a needle-in-a-haystack. (Here we’ve had some incidents of migrant machete “fights” over social indiscretion, women, land, money, alcohol, etc. but even here, they’re hardly omnipresent. Poor neighborhoods and rural. Even in prison, “shankings”, educational lessons, and hits seem to take far more precedence than the equal-footing duel. They are incredibly rare in the grand scheme of things.

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Yet these 2 are often the focus in the MA/SD worlds to civilians/citizens, with far more focus than given to counter-blade. Blade-on-blade and blade-on-empty-handed aggressor.

So…when else then? Let’s explore a little deeper than many tend to. What contexts have at times shown themselves to be even somewhat viable for actual “successful” knife usage situations? (*noting that “successful” does not include psychological/mental/emotional trauma that may also be a financial burden and a long-term venture)

-War, though with the post-WW2 Geneva Convention and the invention of long-range/distance, chemical, and technological weapons-of-war, I’d say that’s likely even lower than civilian instances – and the majority of us aren’t at war…other than with ourselves.

-Brandishing. Deployment to intimidate. The hope/whim that presentation will be sufficient to nullify the threat. (presentation)

-Brandishing with command presence. Adding aggressive body language and weapon-positions/motions that reinforces the above presentation.

-Brandishing with command presence and adding verbal reinforcement. Implied or direct threats added to the above two.

Now, caveats. Let’s acknowledge that 2 things have to happen for the above 3 to have the desired impact: 1) you to be willing to follow-through on the escalating stages or stand-alone tactics above should your bluff be called, and 2) that you sell it to the other party such that they believe that #1 will happen. Should those not happen, we cycle back to the 2nd paragraph in the article. Rinse. Repeat. Also, be aware that brandishing itself is illegal in many areas so we’ll cover that aspect below a little further as we introduce further aspects…and if your knife is outside the legal limits of length, style, and type, it still may be moot. (The Scalp-Stealer Mach 2 might not be a great tool for self-defense use either….so you know)

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When else?

-Pressing. Putting the knife with pressure against the opponent in some manner to gain psychological upper-hand, intimate via threat, or escalate the above 3. Throat, abdomen, back/kidney, face, groin, etc. Upping the stakes on the threat. (accepting the bluff can also be called here but there’s perceived greater risk in doing so) For instance, an old schoolmate of mine had this happen outside a bar in Manitoba (witnesses corroborated his account) He was the instigator, the scenario ended with him having a blade put to his throat by the other gentleman to avoid further violence. It worked. No harm, no foul outside of injured pride.

-Closed-folder used as a fistload or compact pocket-stick. (would apply to situations/contexts similar to other impact weapons with regard to legality)

-Using the carried-blade as a justification for a lower-force tool – a decoy. I was told of a case in the US where a pencil was used for self-defense and the verdict was swayed because the user claimed restrained self-defense, noting he was also carrying a “more-lethal” blade on him at the time of assault.

-Non-lethal, minor cuts. Always a risk but cutting hands, arms, legs, clothes, superficial areas. Hardly target-focused and not at all the surgical bio-mechanical variety claimed accessible and medically-viable under great duress (a debate for another time), but generally to create space, demotivate attack/attacker, or allow for escape. I’ve heard many of these, a few ended badly and with unintended results, many not.

And when would these be considered “successful” in the post-event aftermath? If the opponent doesn’t know your identity. No law enforcement are involved. No charges filed or report made. No trip to the hospital is necessary. Superficial wounds. Or you don’t wait around to find out the above. (no maiming, disfigurement, heavy-bleeding, permanent injuries, life-threat, etc.) Maybe the offender also doesn’t want to be held accountable, risk an assault charge, have a criminal record, can’t afford a lawyer or hospital bills for minor injuries, initiated the confrontation and isn’t well-versed in legal aspects, etc. None of which you’ll know beforehand or can assume will be true when making the decision to use.

*Let’s also acknowledge that a) most of these occurrences are, of course, anecdotal by nature and from either first-hand participants or witnesses – not actual media reports or court cases out of necessity (so, admittedly, there is obviously some room for error but when isn’t there even in a court case in a battle of “closest-to-acceptable” perception-twisting for others’ benefit). And b) that future legal-battles are still a potential concern should things come to light and circumstances change as, though “successful”, all could still be illegal in nature.

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Any others? Sure. Unsolved murders. You went too far and didn’t get caught…yet. And, if not, can you live with yourself? Keep the secret? Deal psychologically with taking a life? Manage your guilt? Your cross to bear, I guess.

So, to summarize, successful (meaning circumventing jail-time, lawyer/court fees, criminal record, trial, social stigmas that result) knife-presence in a violent scenario has to have a number of things go right for it to occur. Low-level of force & minimal receiver-injury plus not having the situation escalate out-of-hand. An opponent (and witnesses) unwilling to press charges/go to police/identity offender and not have law enforcement be needed at the scene. OR…successful knife-usage by going through the legal process and “winning” after financial/legal expenses and possibly jail-time awaiting trial. Witnesses (if applicable) supporting you, proving justifiable self-defense against superior force or dire circumstance within the legal channels, a good lawyer, a money supply, and a judge/jury believing your case from their personal (often suburban and isolated) perspective. (not your industry peers) And NONE of these including possible psychological, emotional, spiritual, and/or mental trauma resulting from the act itself and potential therapy that may come with it.

To be clear, I love knife-training. Dueling. Playing. Drilling. Handling. Strategizing. Footwork. Measurement. Timing. It’s fun, focus-forced, and attribute-building…but I don’t teach it for self-defense any longer. (Though I don’t begrudge those who do so responsibly) I don’t advocate student-carry. I don’t glorify it and write how-to articles on it. I don’t push it over more legally-viable and higher-percentage stoppers whether improvised, tertiary, or strategically-placed/carried. AND, to be absolutely clear, I am NOT referring to those circumstances where the other option of the above-mentioned is death. Of course, legal/psychological/mental/fiscal issues would always be preferable to the alternative of dying, at least we hope that’s the case. And these are profound choices you’re going to have to make yourself….personally….well prior to an event actually happening. (training or not) This is directed at those multi-bladed murder-advocates who teach others offensive/aggressive knife-defense or knife-fighting or negligent bladed-defense to whatever type of transgression on the sliding scale of attack-seriousness.

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But, that being said, as we can see, the window for successful bladed self-defense is pretty streamlined and narrow and even what’s deemed as successful bladed SD has a fairly steep cost. The above examples also don’t require 20 years of stylistic TMA knife-training. At all, whatsoever. And, to be extra clear, this also isn’t factoring in the wildly unpredictable nature of blade-attack response. Knives are simply not a guaranteed stopper. We see it time-and-again in case studies, Youtube videos, historical references, personal anecdotes from survivors and medical professionals. There is no specific area to cut, set immediacy of cutting/stabbing shutdown, ensured blood-loss amount, bio-mechanical-cutting surety….that will guarantee the stop of a motivated, intent-driven, aggressive attacking person. Case studies prove this out – they are wildly erratic, hugely unpredictable, and human will and adrenaline are quite the things. Even medical professionals have been at a loss to explain how some victims are walking and talking in the ER after great blood-loss and 40 puncture wounds. Big knives, bigger damage-potential, sure…but that legal-length thing, again. (and acknowledging public-carry is different than private-positioning for a home-invasion are different things entirely)

In conclusion, you need to really study the above examples as they’re what true case-studies, documented incidents, anecdotes, and witness testimonies are predominantly based on….in the real-world. I’ve never ever heard of a successful 16-cut surgical targeting shutdown attack against a right-cross…yet. But I’ll be the first to admit I’m wrong when and if it happens. Keep me posted if it comes to a neighborhood near you…

GRADUAL UNREST IN A FOREIGN ENVIRONMENT

Lots of anxiety and stress in the country right now with a new tax being implemented (deemed deeply unfair to the middle-to-low-class, while the upper-class go untouched). New progressive ideas that are seen as “1st-World” while fundamental staples like infrastructure, education, poverty, and wage go unaddressed. A government that’s lost the faith and trust of the people. Misinformation and fake news (some misunderstood, others planted intentionally) causing unrest, anger, and paranoia. Strikes, protests, blockades in random pockets of the country preventing the working-class from getting to work to feed their families and causing greater disconnect within the same class/demographic. Rising violent episodes, including one with law enforcement, force, and student protesters. And polarizing figures in the middle of it all calling for a coup d’etat – the same polarizing figures who last election pushed an agenda of misogyny, unifying of church and state, a personal police force that answered only to leadership, and backed by the money of shady religious powers from the US. It’s a powder-keg of explosive proportions hanging in the balance, to be sure and most media aren’t adding all of the elements involved here at the moment.

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Now, there are various phases of this that can be addressed in terms of how to prepare and, rather than taking a holistic approach and widening the scope of this article unnecessarily – let’s address the immediate threat first. The one that’s the current greatest issue without overwhelming ourselves with the ones that aren’t….yet. What can one do, within context, to manage safety in the midst of surprise strikes, protests, rallies, and blockades.

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I’ll share what what we’re doing differently daily at this stage.


-carrying bottled-water supply in case of running into strikes, barricades, or protests. Long waits can cause dehydration and waiting is far safer than trying to crash or pass the blockage. (you also then have a place to urinate should I need to and the wait is exorbitantly longer than expected, without leaving the relative safety of your vehicle

-making sure there’s a car-charger for your cell phone with plug-in in case you get low on battery or need to communicate with LE, concerned parties, or 1st-responders/medical-assistance/paramedics


-have a small 1st-Aid kit in the glove-box for whatever needs become necessary

-make sure you leave valuable (jewelry, big bills, items of value) at home as these blockages tend to draw the curious, opportunistic, and hostile in crowds to capitalize on trapped drivers…especially foreigners that stand out. Carry small local-currency bills


-wear common, humble, low-key, non-branded clothing to blend-in and not draw attention. Speaking the local language certainly helps not put a target on my back from interviews and prying questioning


-make sure the Waze application is working and updated on my phone as it’s the only GPS program that gives prior micro-details on upcoming/high-volume traffic, stoppages, LE-presence, and fastest-route availability


-wear running shoes or comfortable footwear when knowing you’ll be entering high(er)-risk areas for quick and fluid movement if needed. Generally, if you don’t need to go into the center of the city or populated suburban pockets – don’t. There are almost always other, close-to-home options for the time being.


-make sure the car has at least half-a-tank of gas in case of long lines, times where the car needs to stay running in anticipation of quick departure or route-switches. This also goes for back-up propane re-fills as often shortages of gasoline, propane, and other services occur due to the strikes, government regulation, or slowing of outside services entering the country out of concern over the state-of-things.


-make sure the spare tire is full and tire-change equipment is ready to go in case of intentional puncture, fluids topped-off, small change for quick toll exit


-as an aside, it wouldn’t hurt to have a bug-out bag ready to go or stored in the trunk, should the situation deteriorate over the next couple of weeks

Now, these have the potential to change and alter as/if the threat, unrest, and events increase but first steps first. Start building your prep in stages to avoid being taken away by public hyperbole and panic. By being anxious over grand scope of where this can lead, you contribute to the phalanx of anxiety and pressure that can cause this to explode. Don’t be a feeder, be a responder. Remember too, that empathy to the cause of these barricades goes a long way – many of these protests are entirely justified here (some are not) but be aware that peer-pressure and pack-mentality is a very real thing in people that it might otherwise not be. Keep you posted with further progressions and matching preparations. Head-up.

MOTOR-SKILL MISNOMERS

Motor-skill coordination has long been misinterpreted to have universal effects on human performance. (As an aside, the only images that come up originally in a Google search are child-related, something that wasn’t lost on me regarding why this is still a huge topic of such importance in the SD world) Heart-rates, performance capability, general physiological-response lists at exertion-levels that transfer to every single person equally, breakdowns of specific performance under duress for complex/fine/gross motor-skill accessibility. Grossman and Siddle really left a glowing myth to overcome for rest of us. The gift that keeps on giving.

A close affiliate of a very well-known SD figure stated something on social media the other day that I witnessed. This person stated that “If anything requires fine motor skills, it’s simply not achievable under the effects of adrenaline and, therefore, it’s utterly useless and nobody facing antisocial violence will ever be able to access it. The most important elements in SD is the delivery system, which is never physical but psychological, emotional, mental, and behavioral…” Understandably, lots liked the comment because it sounds great as a soundbite and who would question such a respected authority, right? (I did but took it down after a while as a) few care, b) I don’t get paid to argue with strangers – on Facebook – who make grand sweeping statements, and c) tons of what we see on social media is bullshit and who wants to be a little Dutch girl putting their finger in the hole of the dam, I have a life to lead) But it’s wrong. At best, contextual, circumstantial, and personal.

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So you know, it is always person-specific so “nobody ever” and “never” are rather generalized, as are “always” and “everybody always.” People rise to the occasion quite regularly…even using “fine- and complex-motor skill” under survival-duress. No, it may not be ideal or highest-percentage for everybody and every situation – granted – but to universally state “it’s crap” in all antisocial scenarios would be to discard Youtube videos, case-studies….and modern science. Deploying, opening, and re-loading weapons, medical management, firing, opening doors, multi-tasking, split-attention function, making complex decisions…are all achievable for some – even under life-threatening stress and antisocial violence. Physiology/nature, experience(s), breathing, exposure, prior awareness all are intangibles that dictate. Hell, that day’s sleep, food-intake, fear-level/anxiety as well. It’s exactly because of that delivery system (psychological/emotional/behavioral) being the thing, that it is so person-specific. This person inevitably defeated their own argument.

Now, to further this counter-point, let’s remember as well that not all antisocial violence happens the same way. That’s a fact that most SD experts neglect to discuss in their rush to inform you of their variations of “social” and “antisocial” paradigms and scenario-specific strategy-breakdowns. Muggings are different than pickpocket-catches are different from snatch-and-run theft. Kidnappings are different than home invasions. Even home invasions here in CR have different motivations, goals, and levels-of-violence that the perpetrators are willing to invest. (warnings, items of value, a hit, violence for violence sake) Interviews for change from aggressive panhandlers are probing and testing. Ambush attacks are yet another dynamic. As are sicario-hits. What is “antisocial violence” and no fine-motor skills are achievable ever? There’s a vast array of sliding-scale “antisocial” violence and all have their own context of intent, motivation, strategy, and innocuousness. Slow-burn, immediate and explosive, prolonged. The problem is that far too many SD experts generalize all situations with universal strategies. Or transfer their prior violence experience to a vast chasm of customer need and lifestyle. Regardless, it’s easy to be one-dimensional, generic, and cookie-cutter, making big sweeping statements that sound great to the loyal followers they maintain.

To get back to the original premise, each individual person (all this above factored in) has their own environment, capability, behavior, mission, beliefs/values, nature/nurture, experience/experiences, states that affect their ability to manage stress/violence/anxiety/pressure at any given time. Law enforcement in firefights achieve amazing things under duress…including fine- and complex-motor skills. Regular civilians with innate survival-skillsets as well under attack or great levels of surprise violence. Professionals in life-saving environments as well….firefighters, pilots, military personnel, medical personnel for instance.

As well, these tools that the industry incessantly passes around – universal heart-rate charts (like the one above), performance-capability numbers, motor-skill correlations to stressful environments….have long ago been proven inaccurate by science. They are only perpetuated by industry professionals who’ve made their name, client-base, and reputation off of this outdated and useless information. Science, medicine, human performance, and the invention of social media to show glaring real-life examples have all put a lot of this hyperbole to rest….yet here we are. Still selling the legend.

All this combines to make a very specific, contextual, and individual stress-response…..hardly semantic, which is what most of these people lean on when cornered. “Well, what I MEANT was…”nobody BUT experienced people”” or “”wasn’t adrenal-FRIENDLY” but doesn’t mean some people can’t surpass these “restrictions”” or “I should’ve said “higher- vs. lower-percentage options” (a good one, by the way) or….you get the point. Sure, they can always go that route, indeed that’s why it’s so easy to spew these colloquialisms, because they are so easy to change meaning to midstream. And those, my friends, are the most dangerous of all. One-size-fits-all generalizations on a topic that is staunchly-contextual and multi-dimensional – violence. When you hear words like “always”, “never”, “nobody ever”, “if/then” conditional statements…..really, really do an internal validity check. A quote I’m familiar with fits here nicely, “always look to refute, not confirm. Attempting to confirm a suspicion shows bias. If you’re unable to refute the suspicion with all reasonable possibilities, then you’re left with the appropriate conclusion.” Rarely is anything concrete in the counter-violence/violence world and that has been proven time-and-again by average everyday people shattering those universal quantifiers. (I even saw a guy once on video do a wristlock against a real, live gun-wielding criminal and that’s never ever supposed to hap….)

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A DISTURBING SOCIAL EXPERIMENT

So, here’s a social experiment I tried this morning. I decided to see just how much information I could find out on a random person. As the car in front of me had some interesting bumper stickers, I picked it. I did not see the driver whatsoever and only recouped the license plate. That was all the info I had to go on other than what was visual about the car and inside within eyesight.

Here’s what I found.

Through the National Registry, I found out the owner of the car, the make, model, year purchased, how paid. I found out his personal identification number, his mother’s maiden name, his married status (divorced), ex-wife’s name, and nationality. I already know that, since his license plate number ends in 3, that he’s not allowed driving within city limits on Tuesdays due to the weekly vehicle-usage restrictions so I’ll know when his car’s at home unattended and when he’ll be travelling by other means. From there I searched him out on social media. I found pics of him, his girlfriend, and his children. (who, smartly, did not have their faces shown) Now, he’s a former photographer who’s now trained in the field of behavioral psychology field (as his car has a bumper-sticker “psychologist and proud of it!”), as is his live-in girlfriend/wife, who specializes in working with children and high-risk youths in the same field. She also has a conflict resolution specialization so I figured, coupled with the psychology, this might be a hard “mark.” I found out her name (they’re not married), both of his children’s names, sexes, and their general ages. (one, the girl, is at least 3 or under due to the child-seat in the car and the “baby on-board sign, knowing a little about child-seat/age rules here), boy around 8. I found out the general area where they live and the exact areas where they go back-and-forth from points of work. I found both cell numbers and the company they’re subcontracted by, including their own offshoot companies.

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From here I found him on a heritage/geneology site and, not wanting to open an actual account and pay money, I went the general synopsis route and scraped together info stumbled across pertaining to his family tree. His father died in 2012 at the age of 51. He was divorced in 2012 as well. (connection?) I found out his grandparents’ names and mother’s age as well. Had I paid for site-entry, I would’ve found out his last 2 known addresses for census and voting purposes, likely opening the door to find his new and current residency, had I been inclined and motivated.

So, what’s the point of all this? It took me one hour. From someone who’s generally quite guarded and has a restricted online profile, who pays attention to behavioral issues, who blocked out his personal information, children’s identities, and restricted his content. One hour. From a license plate number. Don’t think that total strangers can’t find out a ton about you that you don’t think they can, in a minimal amount of time, with the smallest of information. Orwell was onto something…

SELF-DEFENSE CASE STUDY FROM BACK HOME

https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/manitoba/vincent-bunn-dakota-pratt-sentencing-1.5165442 

https://www.newser.com/story/276229/fatal-stabbing-of-intruder-took-self-defense-too-far-judge.html 

A good friend posted on this one in haste and without getting the latest on the case, and I get that. I’ve made some mistakes on posting over the years as well without proper research or while on-the-fly. I wasn’t going to address this one again but, since it’s from home and there seems to be an infinite number of comments on “how you can’t even defend your own home anymore from an armed intruder, what the fuck is the world coming to!” floating around, I’m feeling the need. Being that most foreigners that I see commenting on this do not seem to understand Canadian law nor have they done due diligence on what exactly transpired here to eliminate the self-defense aspect. People feed hyperbole and personal narrative to push SD programs or feed the fire on civilians losing all their rights but each case should be broken down of its own volition prior to such statements.
1. This was originally 100% a case of self-defense and the “home-occupier” had every right to fight back with full-force, yes. HOWEVER, when judges, lawyers, and juries hear phrases like “chased him throughout the house and out onto the deck” (as was stated in Newser's article above), “kicked him in the head numerous times after the fatal-stab was accomplished”, and “stabbed him 13 times” after he ceased being a threat (he was trying to escape, remember)….the law tends to frown upon that sort of thing. (and they don’t give a shit if you’re jacked on adrenaline, which is very likely mitigated by the fact you were under-the-influence while jacked.

2. There was personal history. The deceased was admittedly allowed in the house, according to the house owner, the home-occupier’s own mother-in-law. Both parties were under the influence of alcohol (a huge problem on Canadian First Nations/aboriginal reserves), both had prior history with each other, there was jealousy surrounding a previous relationship. Personal. Deeply-personal, and coupled with the alcohol, a very, very likely contributor to the overkill that transpired and clearly personal response to an ongoing fight that needn’t have continued. Through the main floor. Into the hallways. Onto the deck outside.
3. Always, always remember that judges, juries, lawyers are NOT part of your peer group and not your allies. They are normal, average, suburban civilians who do not (nor can they be expected to) relate in any way to the possibly-necessary stopping-power of stabbing someone 13 times, including a final one into the heart for the kill. Factored in with #1, 2, 3 & 4…we have an extremely high recipe for failure on a would-be self-defense case.

4. Pratt’s “only prior conviction was for an assault” so, regardless of justifications and reasoning, he did have precedence, as would have been factored into any forthcoming legal cases. Likewise, the deceased’s family stating how wonderful and funny and outgoing the victim was and how the courts only showed his “bad side” when he broke into a house and stabbed a sleeping-victim in the head….is somewhat moot in this context, I’d say. (I guess he should’ve been given a free hall-pass because he had a good sense-of-humor?) 

5. Always, always remember that judges, juries, lawyers are NOT part of your peer group and not your allies. They are normal, average, suburban civilians who do not (nor can they be expected to) relate in any way to the possibly-necessary stopping-power of stabbing someone 13 times, including a final one into the heart for the kill. Factored in with #1, 2, 3 & 4…we have an extremely high recipe for failure on a would-be self-defense case. 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

HUMAN CONFLICT-RESPONSE – AN IN-DEPTH LOOK

It seems most industry-folk adhere to the fight-flight-freeze triumverate of response when faced with immediate fear, danger, or serious/immediate threat. In that intense context, I’d say that’s sufficiently explainable to the average layman/women. I’m going to go a different route, if nothing but for discussion-sake. As always, I’d like to bring up different aspects of what are usually considered accepted industry-truth. For thought and reflection, not necessarily making any statements as to concreteness but to subtly expand perception and option over subjective-truth and process. Consider it a general overview and reference-point for how highly-evolved we are as human beings. A psychological breakdown of reaction-, situation-, and escalation-types….all which factor in to the diversity of options available.

Let’s break them up into soft-wired (learned, developed, cognitive, “by-design”) and hard-wired (innate, instinctive, evolutionary) first. and cognitive. We have those evolutionary instinctive responses, like the above-mentioned 3Fs, that align us with the rest of the animal kingdom.  I’d say that’s at least partially why lip-service is predominantly given to solely the 3Fs, because so many seem to have this will, romance, and danger of referring to us as or relating us to the beasts. The very fact that we have so many other viable learned responses is exactly what separates us from the them. Animals also have fight, flight, and freeze responses. They also, like we do, have some others that instinctively play themselves out in threat/fear scenarios – posturing and submission, for instance. We, though, as humans, also have a very diverse number of learned responses that play-out during everyday conflicts – at work, with spouse, on the street, for instance, as well as during threat- or fear-based situations.

Now, even the fight (physical violence or defense), flight (run, escape), or fright (freeze, hide) responses can be super-imposed over non-threatening, non-fear-based scenarios. (showing that that these responses are not limited to adrenal-inducing life-threats) In verbal or communicative conflict or confrontation, fight can be argue, offend, disagree, attack. Flight can be leave the room, shut down the argument, change the topic, disengage entirely. Freeze can be to go quiet, refuse to take bait, ignore, “shrink” your body or posture. We can inevitably transmit these reactions to a number of variables in very diverse situations, all along the scale of seriousness.

But when it comes to personal interaction, what others do we have available to us that aren’t so instinctive or immediately-reactionary? Is there overlap? Are different to the responses have to be to have their own separate category? Is it important? Maybe not, but for understanding, for instructor/informer-articulation, for clarity of strategic options, maybe it’s worth the breakdown….

  1. Posturing/projection. Elements like projecting strength, finger-pointing, raising voice, staring/glaring, non-physical aggression, swearing, verbal threats, and body-enlarging would fall here. They can be the pre-incident indicators so many pay lip-service to…but they needn’t be. Posturing itself is a means to an end. Intimidation, mitigating the will to engage by the other person, subtle/subliminal-messaging are all intended to either de-escalate and prevent the need to use force or further hostility….or to bluff when out of options. (I won’t get into the effectiveness as it’s not the scope of the outline here – they’re effective, or non-effective, entirely based on context and scale) We see this online as well in the form of challenge matches, namedropping, cred-spewing, tough talk, and exacerbated experience-sharing. (verbal or physical altercation)
  2. Submission. Giving-in. Accepting defeat. Apologizing. Acknowledging guilt in error. Surrendering. Fawning or complimenting. Explicitly expressing, either consciously or unconsciously, verbal or non-verbal, a will not to pursue the conflict in any way. (verbal or physical altercation)
  3. Avoidance/Evasion. It is not the same as flight/run/escape. It’s an active evading of the conflict altogether upon seeing it develop. Pre-conflict subtlety of nullifying or mitigating the event before it has a chance to happen. Seeing that cancerous co-worker coming your way before seen and changing trajectory. Taking a detour or alternate route than to a known hostile environment. NOT going somewhere where a tense situation would be present. Refusing to bring up a topic with an enraged family member that would engage a conflict automatically. “They” may not see you at all and yoour response is planned, conscious. (potential or pre- verbal or physical altercation)
  4. Negotiate/Mitigate. Different than submit in that you’re actively attempting to find resolution mid-conflict. A win-win alternative. (which submission often is not) A means to an end. How to benefit both parties saving face, getting at least something they both want and will be satisfied with – haggling over price. Soothe. Change body language. Change tone. This, admittedly, takes a level of control and self-control to implement. It won’t happen if you’re in panic, under immense stress, or with paralyzing fear. (Thus the scaled-level of conflict element mentioned above) (verbal or physical altercation)
  5. Deflect/Distract. Pass the buck. Blame someone else. Take the pressure off oneself by throwing someone or something else under the bus. A temporary distraction to hold-off the inevitable or to gain precious time for something more valid to make its presence known, transitional. It’s not a solution but a bridge until one is found. A neurological link from one to another while the brain catches up with the circumstances and works to not cognitively-overload. (verbal or physical altercation)
  6. Plea for Assistance. Trying to win over the crowd. Campaign for support or intervention. Strength in numbers.
  7. Attack. Going on the offensive. A sucker-punch. A pre-emptive strike. A “sentry” take-out from a hidden position. To minimize the chance of forceful response in-kind. These can occur in daily inter-communication as well. An accusation. A pre-confrontation verbal escalation. Spreading rumors. Planting seeds. Of course, it can definitely be a prelude to a fight, absolutely, and an unsuccessful attack can most certainly end up in mutual-combat or verbal-altercation. (verbal or physical altercation)

To further this, even from these, what is overlapped, what is not? All above are designed for different purposes than their forebears. Deflect could be a flight byproduct, as threatening could for posturing, but if a threat is a committed will to cut off the conflict knowing the next step in the process, is the design different? Sometimes threats are not accompanied by posturing. Something to contemplate.

As we have broken them up into both innate and learned response and applied them to both verbal and physical response, we can also broaden this further, based on time. Verbal altercations can be solely unto-themselves (argument, intense discussion, disagreement) or a slow-burn lead-up to an actual physical altercation. What about delving into the sliding scale of physical-altercation types? Are there others that show themselves if we’re ambushed? Given no downtime to prep or ready ourselves? No signs of impending danger, at least that we caught prior?

  1. Turtling. I’ve been in a stick-fighting sport-match where the other gentleman went down one knee and instinctively put an arm up to cover as the pressure overwhelmed his senses. He said post-fight it was completely unintentional but he was helpless to prevent it as his system overrode his conscious will to respond. Unconsciously covering-up. Fetal or prone position. It’s somewhat of a mid-fight freeze but the physiological responses and event-point are different. (innate, instinctive)
  2. Flinching. An unconscious projection, usually outward. Blinking of the eyes. Putting up of the hands. Turning of the head. Turning away. Pulling a limb back. Jumping back. A recoil. All done to instinctively avoid incoming threat or pain. (innate, instinctive)
  3. Covering. We see many trainers now implementing intentional head-covers to counter incoming attacks. Head covers. Arm/forearm shields. Framing. All designed to withstand the initial surprise and connect or access either conditioned or innate fight or survival-skill response. (learned, conditioned)

How about ongoing stress? A looming threat or upcoming unavoidable confrontation? Enemies who pressure you over time? We can add a couple more to the above, as well.

  1. Hyper-vigilance. (panic, confusion, ultra-aggression and overkill regarding daily reactions, constantly tuned-in and jacked-up) It’s worth mentioning that hyper-vigilance and freezing are often coupled together in the industry but medically they are 2 VERY different sides of human trauma and PTSD, as most professionals will attest to.
  2. Informing. Educating oneself on fear, adrenaline, the enemy, the coming event. Planning tactics, re-evaluating options, reconnaissance. Studying the opponent and/or self. Anticipation of outcomes. Psychological warfare.
  3. Activate. Breathing, meditating, and the like to calm oneself, change state, frame the stress in a different way, and come to terms with the process-stress.

Note too that these aren’t the singular sole response to a conflict or given situation. A number of these can happen within the same conflict, whether physical or non-physical in nature. It’s not a finite one-dimensional response; these are dynamic scenarios, after all, with 3-dimensional reactions and plenty of room even in the seconds or minutes that transpire for multiple to reveal themselves. When another response’s desired-outcome fails, confidence or self-control is restored or increasing, adrenal-effects are lessened, different angles present themselves, the situation changes with outside influence/3rd-party intervention, the type of threat/conflict changes, and so on. So, is there likely some (or much?) overlap? Likely, granted. But it does pay to be intricate in the understanding of why they’re different even in micro ways, what each of their intended purposes are and outcomes desired, and when and what type of conflict they show themselves in. Often only then can we better compartmentalize them into categories for better and more streamlined understanding.

Regarding the desperate need to categorize or compartmentalize all these, I’ll leave that to you and your personal needs. Regardless of semantics, studying human responses to fear, anxiety, stress, and conflict certainly shows the vast array of resources we’ve picked up through “survival-learning” over the generations and how we have evolved past the animal-kingdom. I bet scientists are already doing studies on a new one and its positive results when implemented…don’t be surprised to see “blocking” or “unfriending” coming to a neuroscience conference near you.

NON-THREATENING SPACE INVADERS

I know, this is example is a little crude, cold, and aggressive, but it f brings up an interesting complex social-conundrum – unwanted public touching. Not of the sexual harassment or illegal kind, but of the generally socially-acceptable kind that infringe on personal-comfort. One of the major problems is that, regardless of how tactful or amiable you are in your rejection of unwanted hugs, cheek-kisses, physical closeness, and general non-threatening touching…are that the rest of society often looks at you like you’re the uncouth, rude, uneducated ass. At times, this may be unavoidable but it’s still a hugely important area of boundary-setting – one of the most awkward, most complex, and “unwinnable” socially ones present.

Here in Costa Rica, for example, kissing on one cheek from woman-to-man, woman-to-woman, and man-to-woman upon greeting and with familiarity is the norm. There are complexities here too. Hygiene, previous familiarity, safety, comfort level all factor in. Gauging is sometimes not at all easy. Hugging is far more common even from man-to-man than in North America. Spatial-closeness far more tolerated and accepted. Yet emotional distance is far greater, strangely enough. Open sharing, directness, showing vulnerability are practiced far more sparingly here. It can sometimes be a complex web to traverse for the uninitiated and outsider. If the proxemics dynamic and physical touching makes you uncomfortable, are there some ways to circumvent it without causing resentment, tension, or offence….or at least mitigating or limiting the “damage”?

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Admittedly, the number one is, if able, to accept the differences in proxemics, physical contact, and custom to fit-in and grow within the new culture. It tooks me some time but I’ve learned to appreciate the physical contact and closeness in a world where generally these elements are decreasing due to a number of societal and technological changes. Sometimes the fact you’re a foreigner (especially one from North America where spatial-distancing is more acceptably-acknowledged as the standard), you get a free-pass as they’re understanding of your spatial-preferences. Sometimes you’ll get lucky and the other person will understand the emotional/cordial distance between the 2 of you and want as little interaction with you as you do them. (they don’t like you or closeness either) Here are some that I’ve utilized over the years to varying degrees of success:

-handshake with elbow-grab gives control over distance and “entry.” (for men)

-utilizing general macho guy greetings before range can be altered (high-fives, fist bumps, half-hugs with inverted-handshake with thumbs intertwined, etc.) (for men)

-angling body to 45-degrees from them (especially if others are in the circle or within conversation-range, your physical-avoidance may not even be picked-up on if conversation is initiated immediately with others in the circle)

-subtly acknowledging another person in the vicinity/room can make a late hug intentionally-awkward or a head-nod/acknowledgement from a distance can at least put-off the potentially-inevitable, or avoid it altogether. A diversionary tactic.

-feigning illness (cold, flu, sinuses, allergies)

-others entering the room at the same time can be a distraction for avoidance if it’s someone specific you don’t like.

-drinks brought prior can be great physical-barriers.

-if the hug is unavoidable, I’ve found that creating space between bodies or the double-tap back-pat usually instinctively forces a quick hug-and-release.

-a friend of mine even brought up being direct and stating that you’re not a hugger, though in some countries that can be offensive regardless of how gently it’s put.

I think the smile and graciousness are imperative on all of this working. Remember, none of these are excuses to be rude, ignorant of culture, or intentionally-offensive. However, sometimes we have our cultural-norm and comfort-levels. Sometimes people are touch-phobic or with obsessive-compulsive disorder. Some are germaphobes. Some have prior emotional trauma. Distrust in strange or unknown people. Bad or intuitive vibes. There are a lot of reasons why someone legitimately prefers emotional distance and, though these should be respected, we know how people can get offended at the drop of a hat these days at times, so it pays to have some alternative options available. I often think the “social-closeness” element is one of the most difficult rivers to traverse in boundary-setting as the subtleties are so nuanced and environment-specific that we neglect to address them as even being something worthy of discussion in modern conflict management. Taboos, even unacknowledged ones, are healthy-discussion points.

AN OPINION PIECE ON THE RECENT TOURIST ATTACK IN D.R.

https://people.com/crime/woman-speaks-out-nearly-died-attack-dominican-republic-resort/?fbclid=IwAR3a_Hj9gSc0DjJ4Ks00fxNNACazLq5cdjNuKKmdLvD09Qe7Xs–L8020Dng

https://people.com/crime/dominican-republic-assault-all-inclusive-resort-husband-slams-cops-police-question-claims/

Regarding the above links, an awful story however you look at it and I’d like to stress that none of what I’m about to say is a critique, none of this was deserved or fault-based, and that there are predators that will find a way regardless of how astute a person may or may not be. That being said, and living in one of “these countries”, if I could leave some thoughts to contemplate on when/if travelling abroad or even inter-country if living in a large one. Note these are just my opinion so take it accordingly:


1. If you’re a woman and absolutely need to go out after dark, bring a buddy or have a gentleman friend/colleague/partner/family member go on your behalf. Especially if you’ve been partying earlier in the night and may not be of entirely sound mind. This now applies to anywhere in the world when you’re travelling far away from home-base. It’s an advisement, not a critique or blame…and a heartfelt one.

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2. Once/if assaulted, make a report to local police, offer to give testimony if the case goes to trial (even if not really willing, intending, or wanting), and be voluntary with any ongoing investigation. The laws in “these countries” will, of course, be different than in your home-country – it’s a different culture, they’re not under any obligation to have the set of laws from home, nor are they obliged to conduct investigations as you’ve become accustomed. They’re not home and are often undeveloped, inexperienced, and technologically-lacking – this should be acknowledged. Some do a great job but don’t have the same protocols, and those are misread as incompetent or indifferent. Take this into consideration before traveling. Another important element: if you’d like them to pursue the investigation, are asking for damages, want to file lawsuits, have LE follow-up on leads and re-calibrate previous information….and you’ve chosen not to file a police statement, make any official report, or return to testify (based on the reported statements on DR-media and counter to the apparent advisement of her own embassy/consulate representative, as was apparently reported in their press, also now stated by D.R. law-enforcement)….you’ve just majorly tied their hands for doing so, regardless of how inept their process may (or may not) be. It’s a precedent for future legal action, pressure from the local government, and puts the resort under pressure to act proactively to protect their reputation. If you’re not willing to follow-up legally, it will likely be brushed under the proverbial rug. If you simply put pressure on verbally from afar, it’ll inevitably be your word against theirs….and, remember, they want this to go away and have no potential legal consequences to not make it do so if that’s the case.


3. The beach and anywhere near it in any country in the Caribbean or Latin America….is NOT a place to be for a foreigner after dark, especially a foreigner previously drinking, especially a foreigner that’s a woman, especially a foreigner who’s alone, especially at 11 pm at night. Don’t assume this will necessarily be different at a security-enforced resort (though, yes, I know, that’s a big part of what you’re paying for…) and, I’d like to point out, this is not victim-blaming and she admits error in this regard openly, knowing it was a mistake that she won’t repeat. Note that most security, maintenance, and cleaning-staff in places such as this are paid minimally (I know this first-hand as a former security-trainer in CR), are not vetted/without background checks, are most often extremely low-class and uneducated but with an intimate understanding of violence, and are transient and short-staying-including sometimes being illegal within the country. With that volume of rotating staff and that size of grounds, it’s not difficult for members of the surrounding community or ex-employees to obtain or have official resort attire, slip through security, be allowed in by unethical staff, or sneak onto the grounds from strategic points-of-entry previously-known. Now, to be sure, most are simply simple hard-working people trying to support their family, but every so often….


4. To be sure, the resort will or at least should be liable for much here. A resort this size (see Google) without any security cameras should set off major alarm bells. The front desk neglected to act at least 3 times according to public statement. They made broad insinuations about her to her family/friends. Positive public relations may well have dictated that a refund and covered medical costs would be in-order (as she stated and was pushing for), absolutely. HOWEVER, that insinuates at least some culpability and they may have been advised against it by legal counsel should a greater suit be coming. They are a corporation with shareholders and investors and funders, after all…and often from North America or Europe. (That will happen just as easily in the “1st-World” as it will in “these countries”)


5. There are predators that want something (capital) and those who enjoy the task/process (operational); ones who will attack for a specific reason (sexual gratification, money, valuables, vehicle, drugs, whatever) and those who do so because they enjoy or crave the act itself. Hard to say what this was. He took nothing, left all her belongings. He may have sexually-assaulted her but we simply don’t know and won’t. He was comfortable with extreme violence and had very likely participated in it before, of that we can be pretty solid.


6. Full points for her fight for personal survival. Again we see her innate survival instincts kick in at various points during the incident and, as she claims, she may be with her head on a swivel, with PTSD and hypervigilance, and far greater (maybe for the time being uber-) awareness….but she’s been given another shot to make them positive skillsets. Maybe her fighting, losing consciousness, opportunely having calm rush over her and have her survival instinct kick-in at various stages of the attack….all happened at exactly the time they should’ve. Of course, fortune also helped, but we tend to look at these as a “if only she had” situation when the end result is that she survived and lived to tell the tale, and able to advise other women along the way from a survivalist perspective.

As we’re seeing with updates from the police investigation and follow-up interviews, there are still a number of loose ends and contradicting information, some of which have left a nagging intuitive perplexity with me as well since the story broke. I’m curious as to how this all ends up…..

“WEAPON-CENTRICITY”

Youtube is littered with videos of robberies stifled because of a toy/plastic/fake weapon. I call this “weapon-centricity”, putting all your marbles in the jar that hopes people simply submit for the very fact you’re brandishing alone. However, when they don’t, the majority of time it seems the psychological switch or mental-shift needed to actually fight, retain, or pursue the original goal vanishes because of that very weapon-centric mentality. There was never a plan to engage, never the mindset to follow-through regardless of potential pitfalls or bumps in the road. The very premise of the act was predicated on the idea of there being no resistance whatsoever. *Also, remember that the exact same human response to being threatened also pertain to those doing the threatening themselves when the tables turn, sometimes even without – stress-response is not a one-way street when a bluff is called.

In training (and certainly Internet warriorism) we often see this as well, the “If I had a weapon, I’d…” lip-service. Training often neglects follow-up in close-space post-entry. No weapon-retention skillsets cultivated. No mentality that you may have to fight for the weapon at some point – whether it’s yours or theirs. No protection of that weapon in space. No discussion of whether you can actually accomplish the goal in real-life that you’re fantasizing about and role-playing in training. (capability, psychology, states, mental-switches, contexts, violence inhibitors, post-event acceptance, etc.) Weapons training is not just about replicating actions, it’s about assessing these elements of your own understanding of the whys/wheres/whens/hows of their usage and your ability to come to conclusions regarding the answers to these.

THE DICHOTOMY OF THREAT AND PERCEIVED THREAT

I´d like you to think hard on something that dawned on me…or maybe gnawed at me…today. The discrepancy (actually the chasm) between actual threat and perceived threat. Even industry “experts” propagate this myth. Actually predominantly. This´ll be short but sweet. In the previous little community/block in which we lived in Canada, we had a noted wife-beater who’d told his wife he was going to kill her at some point. (listen when people give you all the information you need to know) We had another gentleman who had multiple familial witnesses admit that he used to cut the heads off of little kittens when younger….with a machete or mower…and he thought it was hilarious. (But didn’t some serial-killers….digressing, never mind) We had someone who killed a 14-year old dog by smashing it over the head either with something heavy and hard, or bare-handed and repeatedly. The vet confirmed the cause of death and I carried that dog to be buried in the out-back after being a loyal family pet/friend/protector since birth. (Seniors, women, and kids be on the lookout, because when one can take their closet frustrations out on animals…)

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We had a long-time neighborhood employee who took a 360-degree video of the common area and all its entrances “for a friend” and got very, very nervous and defensive for no reason when he saw I was sitting there unnoticed. (He had all the gate codes and keys, ironically, we just prior had a group break-in in the neighborhood and coincidences are not a big thing for me) A thief worker that ripped off $1000 from his owner before being caught on video. (by yours truly) A neighbor with a serious drug-problem where he blew all his assets from a well-paying job and had a violent streak….but only when he was high, of course. A guy who beat up an aged-senior of 85. These s-t-i-l-l weren’t the worst indiscretions considering the seriously-criminal ones I’m not able to mention due to legal restraints. And these allll still weren’t even including the minor yet often disconcerting other elements that we heard “through-the-grapevine”…..little personal idiosyncrasies and secrets that others told us about: porn-addictions, professional ethics issues, slander, sabotage, bullying, love triangles, illegal gun-ownership, dangerous dogs that have since killed other dogs, etc. etc. etc. To be honest, the only difference I see with my previous and post neighborhoods lived…is that I wasn’t blessed with quite as much information on those elements of my neighbors, though I’m damn sure their versions of similar stories were present and accounted-for.

Yet, many in the neighborhood got together every so often for neighborhood-watch meetings to discuss how we could up the security-factor on the block from those potential criminals OUTSIDE THE COMMUNITY. It’s an irony that I sometimes had trouble fathoming. My point is: I do NOT believe this is any type of aberration or some unique glitch, either. I tend to think this is often almost every neighborhood in the Americas. (as it’s all I can speak on behalf of, first-hand, having lived in 2 parts of it extensively and traveled to others) We are just now starting to openly acknowledge that rape-threats to women far more often come from those who are in their already-established circle of friends, acquaintances, and satellites, not the random violent stranger in the dark of night on some street corner. That’s equally-true with “general” violence as well. Why do we treat general violence any differently? Blinders? Biases? Bad math and “animal” identification issues? (2+2 is usually 4, for the most part and if it looks/walks/acts like a fox, it’s generally not a groundhog)

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I wonder how many little hidden dangers exist next-door that we either are unaware of or refuse to acknowledge because they’re known entities – the people actually infiltrating our daily lives. (They could never hurt us, just others in the neighborhood or those in their own house, right? Let me tell you, if they’re willing to hurt the loved ones in their own house, torture or kill the neighborhood animals, psychologically do damage to other people’s kids, beat the senior next door….they’ll have no problem hurting you if they’re able and you cross them intentionally…even accidentally)

I’ve found the people around me – both sometimes by choice and not-so – to be far more of a personal-protection issue than the lurking-prowler, if evaluating the volume of both in my life to-date. At the end of the day, I guess bogeymen and the faceless criminal are far easier to prep for in a disconnected and desensitized (and unlikely…) manner than the one you say “hi” to every morning that lives next door – you know, the one that might actually be a legit concern and cause you some lifted eyebrows before continuing on with your day blindly….

Something to ponder.

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