IS THIS PERSON RATIONAL?

One great lesson that I’ve learned from the co-lead instructor of the USKMA, Brannon Hicks, is to ask “Is this person rational?” He leads a great RBT class and when critiquing A scenario the question he asks over and over to the officer is “Was this a rational person?” Thinking in those terms helps the officer to make decisions much quicker.

I taught a third-party protection class recently where one of the scenarios was that they were walking a spouse/significant other and a belligerent person came up threatening the spouse. The student playing the belligerent person never laid hands on the spouse but kept coming forward and yelling threats over and over. Because there was no actual contact many of the students were confused on what they should do. After the scenario I would ask them “Was this a rational person?” Would a rational person be belligerent, keep coming forward even though you’ve tried to walk away and threaten to do harm to another person? When the answer was “no, this is not a rational person.” the solution seemed to show itself. It is not rational to threaten a stranger and to keep coming forward as if to do harm. My thought was if I know this isn’t a rational person and I have clearly try to get away and leave the situation and de-escalate, if that person keeps coming forward I probably need to strike first. I can justify in my head, and in a court of law, that I believed this was not a rational person, they were threatening to do harm, and I was not going to wait on them to draw a knife or to follow through with your threat. Again, I would have witnesses stating that I was doing the rational thing. I was trying to leave I was trying to de-escalate I was trying to break contact with this person

SGT Hicks shows a video of a law-enforcement officer who waits way too long to put hands on a criminal. The first thing the officer does is point a taser at the man and tell him to stop coming forward. The man continues to come forward. If this officer would have just thought “This is not a rational thing. I am a law-enforcement officer giving a command and pointing a weapon at this person and yet they keep coming forward”. If he would have decided right then and there that he was dealing with an irrational person and did something about it it would’ve saved him a lot of trouble. It ended up that this criminal drew a knife and stabbed the officer and the officer had to shoot and kill this man.

In my mind setting I tell myself over and over to ask that simple question. Is this person rational? Again, a rational person would not threaten a stranger, act violently, put himself in my face, or any other such thing. Unless we thought about this in our heads ahead of time we may end up frozen thinking “Why is this person doing this, do I know this person? I need to de-escalate this, I need to keep giving orders, keep giving commands, I need to talk my way out of this.” It goes without saying that you’re not going to talk an irrational person out of anything. In my opinion, it is time to go hands-on if I’ve tried to leave, de-escalate, etc. and it’s not working. Any rational person is not going to do the expected. An irrational person is a dangerous person.

In any situation ask yourself that question. Is this person being rational? If they are rational we can talk. If there irrational it may be time to go hands-on. Be safe!

The Power of Awareness!

USKMA Black Belt, Karissa Walton gave a speech this week at her school entitled The Power of Awareness

The speech is this weeks blog. Thanks, Karissa!

Are you aware that…
– …Phoenix is considered to be the kidnapping capital of America?
It is currently ranked #1 in the US and #2 in the world, next to Mexico City
370 recorded cases last year  on average, at least one victim goes missing each day
– …Phoenix is known as the “largest drug gateway into America”?
In 2013, AZ DPS reported 18,334 drug-related arrests in Maricopa County alone
1 in 4 felons serving drug sentences in US prisons are not US citizens – they are the foot soldiers for the Cartel
– …With drugs comes violence?

Overall crime rate in Phoenix is 45% higher than the national average
I’m not sharing this information to frighten or dishearten you, but rather to make you aware of the harshness of reality. I think that as naturopathic students, it is so easy for us to get caught up in exams, clinic shifts, and trying to live a healthy lifestyle that we often lose sight of what goes on beyond these walls. We become unaware of the world that surrounds us.

About 7 years ago, I began my transition to awareness through a system called Krav Maga. Some of you may be thinking “what did she just say… Kraw McGraw? That must be one of another one of those weird martial arts… That’s just not my thing.” Well, the thing I love most about Krav is that it doesn’t have to be your thing. It is a philosophy-based system that was designed for to be effective for anyone and evolve over time.

Krav Maga was first developed before WWII when the Nazis invaded Poland. The Jews were disarmed and left defenseless. At that time, Imi Lichtenfeld, an Olympic boxer and wrestler, developed a system for the Jews to defend themselves on the streets. When Israel became a country after WWII, Imi was put in charge of the combatives training for the Israeli Defense Force. He was able to refine the system and teach to students from around the world. One of his students, Darren Levine, brought Krav to the US in the early 1980s. He passed the training on to the instructor who eventually passed it down to me.

People often ask me why I practice and teach this “Krav Maga.” Why have I spent countless hours in the gym training to complete exhaustion with nothing in return but some bruises and sore muscles? However, that is not the case at all… In return, I have gained an invaluable gift that I can now share with others – a little something I like to call “awareness.”

In Krav, we train for the worst case scenarios. In doing so, we must accept that the worst can happen. The direct byproduct of this acceptance is awareness. Once you become aware of what is around you and what can happen to you, you begin to carry yourself differently. You begin to prepare. You begin to find strength inside yourself that you never knew you had. This doesn’t mean that I walk around sticking out my chest proudly as if I’m looking for a fight. This also doesn’t mean that I walk around cowering as I anxiously scan every little thing around me. It means that I walk with confidence and mindfulness of my surroundings. I am mentally prepared to defend myself or my loved ones if the need ever arises.

As a Krav Maga practitioner, you are constantly coming up with new ways to exercise techniques under stress. As all of us here are aware, when your body is in a sympathetic state, fine motor skills are one of the first things to go. Knowing this, we train to exhaustion (and beyond) in order to induce a realistic simulation of being attacked. During these “stress drills,” you become aware of the physiological changes that your body experiences. You learn to maximize the effect of your natural responses and find power you didn’t think you had left. The more aware you become, the more you can train your “fight or flight” response to fight if necessary and get away as safely as possible.

Since my journey of awareness began, I have noticed changes in the way others approach me as well. While filling up at a gas station or walking through parking lots, I used to constantly be approached by people who were looking for more than an innocent “hello.” Now, it is a very rare occurrence. If you are alert and observant, you simply don’t look like a target and people will recognize that. This has saved me from many unwanted encounters that could have escalated to a dangerous situation quickly.

Not only have I been able to see this transformation in myself, but I have witnessed it in those I teach as well. It has been so rewarding to see the confident yet humble presence of those who have become aware. I have trained women who were previously unaware and unfortunately became a victim to physical or sexual abuse. With a heightened level of awareness, these women have been released from an unspeakable past. They are now able to maintain their composure under stress, while having a much deeper appreciation for the safety of themselves and loved ones. They are empowered.

As Imi (the founder of Krav Maga) once said, “People respect power, and it comes in many forms, Krav Maga is power, and people will respect you for knowing it.” There are many forms of power, so even if you don’t decide to take up Krav Maga tomorrow… I hope that you find power in standing up for what’s right. Find power in not victimizing yourself. Find power in awareness.

Overcoming Experience!

From Guest Blogger and USKMA co-lead instructor, Brannon Hicks

As I walked out of the 24 hour Walmart and into the dark parking lot, I saw a large man (I’ll call him Jon) walking hastily and looking about nervously. The only other person I saw was a smallish woman (I’ll call her Sally) in her mid 40′s looking at her cellphone and presumably texting as she walked toward the store; oblivious to her surroundings. I turned my attention back to Jon, as his apparent nervousness kicked in the instincts I had developed over the years in Police work. He approached Sally and asked if she had the time. I noted that he was wearing a watch. She stopped, startled, and looked up. I started toward them and called out, “It’s about 2:30 buddy,” as I looked Jon in the eye and stopped walking. He looked back at me for a moment, then back at Sally before walking off without saying another word. Now, was he going to rob, rape or abduct her? I can’t say for sure, but my experience has taught me that strangers who nervously approach others in dark parking lots don’t always have good intentions. Sally had likely never been attacked in a dark parking lot; otherwise I’d wager she would have been much more attentive to her surroundings.

I teach a course entitled “The Tactical Crystal Ball” to law enforcement, and a similar course entitled “Misfortune Telling” for civilians. The overall course focuses on the processes that humans go through in detecting threats and the actions we can take to evade or deter the threats. In that course, I try (hopefully I succeed) in illustrating the point that we rarely rise to our best; rather we fall to our most effective training. Not our highest level but our most effective.

The human mind, under stress, will generally rely upon our primary or most recent training or experience during stressful events. In other words, we search our memory banks for the primary response (what we usually do), or we react as we did with our most recent response. Now if Sally had been attacked by Jon in that parking lot, which would she have gone to; primary or recent response? Herein lies the problem. The freeze reaction is often a result of never having experienced such an encounter before (no recent response) and/or never trained for such a response (no ingrained or primary response). Many people have described the phenomenon of their lives “flashing before their eyes.” Sgt. Rory Miller writes at length about this phenomenon in his book “Meditations on Violence.”

Miller believes that the phenomenon is literally the mind searching through its vast data bank of experiences for the most appropriate response to the situation. This my friends, is the real benefit of effective training. Effective training allows us to access the skills we develop almost instantaneously. Hicks’ law of stress management states that the more choices we have to make under stress, the longer we will take to make them. In Krav Maga, we follow the KISS rule. Keep It Simple Stupid. All of our reactions should be trained from a position of disadvantage and most importantly; under stress and exhaustion. Our concepts are simple and direct, because complexity often breeds confusion, and therefore inaction under stress.

In the Law Enforcement community, we often review videos of officers engaging in deadly force encounters for training purposes. Far from “armchair quarterbacking,” we are relying upon the experience of others to build up our own responses; to sharpen the sword so to speak. Just as often, we see Police Officers killed or severely injured when a good tactical response is delayed by the fact that the officers had never encountered such violence before or been effectively trained to respond to it. As individuals, no one is more responsible for our safety than we are. In my estimation, Sally had never prepared herself for a violent encounter. I wager no one had ever attacked her beforehand. If Jon had wanted to victimize her, it likely wouldn’t have been difficult for him, precisely because Sally’s experience thus far in life left her in a position of disadvantage. Don’t leave yourself in the same position.

See It Before It Happens!

“On October 16, 1991, 35-year-old George “Jo Jo” Pierre Hennard, an unemployed merchant seaman who was described by others as angry and withdrawn, with a dislike of women, drove his blue 1987 Ford Ranger pickup truck through the front window of a Luby’s cafeteria at 1705 East Central Texas Expressway in Killeen. Yelling “This is what Bell County did to me!”, Hennard then opened fire on its patrons and staff with a Glock 17 pistol and, later, a Ruger P89. He stalked, shot, and killed 23 people while wounding another 20 before committing suicide.” Wikipidia

It was reported that the majority of people shot and killed were sitting at their tables. Very few rushed the gunman or did anything to secure their safety. I would think he would have killed less than twenty-three if everyone would have started winging dishes at him and dog piled on him, but under that stress and fear people can’t come up with a plan…they freeze.

The reason people do this “freezing” under stress is that they aren’t thinking, their brains are stuck in “mid brain”. Under stress our brains will scan our entire lives to see if we had ever been in the situation before and, if so, how we got out of it. Our brain will scan to see if we have a plan for the situation. If our brain finds none it will simply keep scanning, and we will keep sitting there like a statue. We aren’t going to come up with a plan at that time but training will come out of us.

I have written blogs on minds setting in the past. One thing that law enforcement officers have practiced that has saved many lives is that in the mid seventies law enforcement agencies started preaching mind setting. As the officers were patrolling throughout their day they were taught to ask themselves or talk with their partners about the “what ifs”. “What if we stop at this light and a gunman approaches from your side…from my side…from behind”. “What if we walk into this business and a guy attacks you with a knife…attacks me…is attacking someone else”, etc., etc. Lives were saved because they constantly thought about plans.

In Krav Maga classes our drills are getting people ready for violence. We are physically working on plans for someone trying to hurt us, for multiple attackers, for someone trying to cut us, hit us with a stick, shoot us, etc., etc. We also want our practitioners to think. We tell them when they read about a violent attack or see one on the news to not just think “poor person” but to think “what would I do if in that situation”. So, ask yourself:
-What would I do if I were watching TV in my house and someone kicked in the front door?
-What would I do if I woke up in my bed and someone was standing over me?
-What would I do if driving and someone was standing in the road trying to get me to stop…or blocking the road with a car…or trying to run me off the road with a car?
-What would I do if I saw three guys trying to surround me in the mall parking lot?
-What would I do if someone forced their way into my car?

You can think of many, many others. Please do. If you think about a situation you are much more likely to have that plan surface if the situation happens to you. There is a lot more to being safe than learning some techniques.

One more thing to think about…your planning does your family no good if it isn’t shared with them. Have plans and talk about them with your spouse and kids. Practice “home invader” drills. Have a plan if at a mall and a gunfight starts. Have a plan for when you are in the car. Plan, plan, plan!! BE SAFE!

Mass Shooting & Terrorist Attacks

I have had a couple of people hit me up with “what would you do” questions about the mass shooting in Orlando a few weeks ago. This tragedy is being politicized by all sides to the point that it’s sickening. I’ll give ya my advice on how I’d take care of it…then I’ll give you more realistic advice that anyone can implement.

As far as schools go I like what Texas is doing…arm teachers. Taking guns away from everyone will have only the psychos and criminals having access to guns. They will still get them because they ignore the law. Schools are “no gun” zones…that law didn’t stop the scum bag. If a few teachers were highly trained and had access to guns in the schools these psychopathic idiots wouldn’t have free access to roam the halls and shoot for as long as they want. “But that isn’t the teacher’s job” is what I hear. Well, the principal and a few teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary rushed the scum bag empty handed. They weren’t going to let anyone harm their kids. They were killed in the process because a rifle beats empty hands every time. The point is, these heroes wanted to do something and they did do something. They just had the odds stacked against them.

Now advice for if you are ever in such a situation that is a bit more realistic. The best thing you can do is to have thought about it before hand and have a plan in your head. I have written about stress and mind setting in previous blogs. Under the stress of someone shooting at you it is impossible to come up with a plan. Your brain will go to “mid brain”, which is also called the “animal brain” under this stress. This is why you hear stories like that of Luby’s restaurant in Texas where people sat at their tables frozen as the gunman walked around shooting. Under that stress your brain is scanning to see if anything like this had ever happened before and how you got out of it. With no plan in place, no practice and no experience the brain will not come up with a plan but will continue to scan, freezing you in place.

I believe if everyone carried a weapon and trained (especially RBT) mass shootings would be a thing of the past. Read that again, I didn’t say if everyone carried. The training part is the most important. Training comes out of us and we don’t freeze in place when some fool starts shooting.

What plan should we have for these mass shootings for those who don’t or can’t carry a handgun? I have a very good friend who is a cop that tried to get into his local school system a few years ago with plans/drills for the high school students. The administration wouldn’t even sit through the video of Columbine that he had with him, yet alone talk to him about implementing the plans he had. Their heads were buried in the sand, they couldn’t possibly implement such a thing.

The plan is that in a crowded room when someone starts shooting everyone throws whatever they can get their hands on at the scum bag (books and laptops if you are at school, dishes and glasses if in a restaurant, etc.). As these objects are striking the shooter everyone then rushes him and dog piles on top of him. He may get a couple of people but these twenty and thirty person mass murders wouldn’t happen. Such a thing would take training, which is exactly what we do at our gyms. We actually sit people at tables with plastic plates and cups, have someone come in firing a blank gun and have at him.

These tragedies are horrible and, instead of knee jerk reactions and blaming everyone and everything except the psycho who pulled the trigger, we need education. If every school had active shooter drills where the above plan was practiced the students would be safer. Schools have fire drills several times throughout the school year but don’t practice for active shooters (correctly anyhow). There have been more school shootings than deadly fires in schools over the past fifteen years, by far. BE SAFE!

GET IN, STAY IN!

One of Imi Lichtenfied’s students tells a story about the time that there was a TV on with a Bruce Lee movie playing. The student asked Imi “what do you think of Bruce Lee”? Imi said “Well, the boy is very good, however, if he has time to duck he has time to go in and finish….but that would make for a short movie I suppose.” Krav Maga training has a technique that is very unique called “bursting.” We push off of a foot like a sprinter leaving the starting blocks to put our whole weight behind an attack or block and to get inside. We want to be inside because we never think that one punch, elbow, etc. will knock out the attacker (it indeed may but we can’t take that for granted) so we want to be close to clinch and attack and attack again until the bad guy is done.

A person in a sparring match can move, strike, move some more, circle, strike again, etc. This works because in a sparring match there are two evenly matched opponents competing with a set of rules. In the real world fighting like this only works if we are better, stronger, aren’t worried about a second attacker, have time, etc. In Krav Maga we realize we don’t have those luxuries so we want to burst in, hit the bad guy many times, finish him as quickly as we can and never give him the chance to strike at us more than once. In a choke, for instance, getting the bad guy’s hands off or our throat and then backing off, squaring up to fight and then throwing punches would only work if we are the better fighter. Instead we remove the attacker’s hands, simultaneously kick his groin, land forward, clinch the attacker and throw non stop knees & front kicks until he is done.

We show this concept from the very first intro lesson at our gym. We show a front kick, let the new student do a few, and then stop the student to teach Krav philosophy. We tell them that their kick was fine (it’s an easy technique) but not to kick and put their foot back where they started. If they kick and put their foot back they have to kick again to get back close to the attacker. We show them to kick and put their foot down forward because then the attacker is right there for a knee with the other leg or they can just clinch the attacker and deliver multiple combatives.

When there is a weapon involved this becomes even more important. If we can’t run or pick up something to smack the attacker with we want to go in. If it’s a handgun we direct it off of us and go in and beat him unconscious. In the case of a knife or stick the attacker expects us to back up. Backing up puts us in greater danger as we are going to the most dangerous part of the stick (the end) or into the arc of the blade. In the case of the stick going in keeps us from being hit by the part going the fastest but instead takes us into the hand or forearm of the person swinging the stick. There isn’t much damage the bad guy is going to do to us there. We aren’t just moving in to escape the danger but when we do get in we deliver a strike. This strike has a lot of power as our whole body was behind it. While inside, after this first strike, we clinch and throw knees, elbows, head butts, etc. until we are safe.

The point is that you can dance and prance if you are in a fair fight. If you are fighting for your life go forward, get in deep and beat on the bad guy until he’s done! BE SAFE!

PRESS FORWARD!

“Danger. If you meet it head on and without flinching you will remove the danger by half. Never run away from anything. Never.” W. Churchill

One of the keys of Krav Maga training that I blog about often is that there are no magic techniques. Aggression and developing a switch so that our “flinch” reaction enables us to go from overwhelmed and surprised to going forward and destroying the attacker is what keeps us safe. The one thing that we can develope to make us safer than any system, art or technique is aggression and the mindset to go forward and go hard no matter what. I wrote about this a few weeks ago in the “slow it down” blog. We go hard in classes and work aggression and a “fight no matter what” mindset and worry about perfecting technique later.

I found a beautiful illustration of this in Chuck Holton’s book BULLET PROOF. The following is a couple of paragraphs from the book; “Capt. Brian Chontosh, found himself leading a patrol through the small town of Ad Diwaniyah, south of Baghdad. In what seemed like a single heartbeat, his unit was hit with a coordinated attack of mortars, rocket-propelled grenades, and machine-gun fire. Chontosh knew immediately that it was a near ambush…and that he and his men were in the kill zone. Retreat was not an option. Dying was.

But Captain Chontosh wasn’t about to let that happen to his Marines. The love he felt for each of them instantly transformed into rage at those who would try to kill his men. He ordered the driver of his Humvee to plow directly into the enemy trench, and with a violence of actian that came from hard training, he leaped from the vehicle and attacked the attackers until his rifle ran out of ammo. He then pulled out his pistol and continued killiing the enemy until that, too, ran dry. He picked up an enemy weapon and continued fighting. Then another. Then another. When it was over, more than twenty enemy fighters were out of commission and his men were saved.”

When in doubt go forward and go hard! BE SAFE!