Looking Out For Number One!
Are you behaving like a “Vic” in your home or on the street? You become a potential “Vic”tim when you walk with your head down, shoulders slouched, ignore your surroundings and generally appear as though you are in another world. Does this mean you are at the mercy of those willing to do you harm? Not at all. It means you must become skillful in personal security techniques.
Although the Canadian Center for Justice Statistics indicates that violent crime dropped by four percent in 1995, [violent crime was still 36 percent higher than it was a decade earlier.] Such a small decrease does little to relieve the anxiety created by the incidents noted in the media. What can you do about fear and anxiety? Take positive and direct action to help yourself.
Complacency is often the greatest obstacle to personal safety. First and foremost you must form a mind-set that you will do whatever is necessary to prevent personal injury. This begins with the adoption of the colors of white, yellow, orange and red of an international code of awareness often used by various martial arts groups.
Color code of awareness
White is the state of awareness of your home surroundings. The doors are locked at all times with dead-bolts and windows are secure. You have your central telephone and the one in the bedroom programmed electronically with emergency and reliable neighbors’ numbers or you have them listed beside the telephone. An answering machine can screen your telephone calls, allowing you to choose with whom you speak and eliminating crank callers. You have exterior motion lights and a front door peep-hole to observe visitors. This place is your domain of white.
Yellow is your state of awareness every place other than home. Yellow, then is your driveway, apartment parkade and neighborhood or even when you are travelling farther afield. It is being familiar with your surroundings wherever they are. It is not paranoia. I discourage the notion that men, no matter what age, are supposed to be able to take care of themselves.
Karl*, 76, a retired millwright, was using a rest-stop washroom when two men entered behind him. One distracted Karl with conversation while the other took Karl’s wallet from his rear pant’s pocket. Karl was not aware of the theft until he returned to his car. After a personal security course, Karl is now aware of his surroundings, uses a cubicle in washrooms and a fanny-pack for his wallet.
Orange is the state of being aware of imminent danger and preparing to meet that danger with skills to avoid personal injury. For example, Shelly*, 57, a realtor in Oakville, Ontario, was holding an open house by herself late one Saturday afternoon when a lone male came through the front door, paused, scrutinized his surroundings, locked the door and entered the living-room where Shelly was seated behind a desk. Her intuition set off an inner alarm as she pushed the emergency button on her phone and pretended to speak to her office. The 911 operator picked up on Shelly’s clues, kept her on the phone while the intruder stood in front of the desk waiting for the call to end. The 911 operator knew the address from the telephone connection. Within minutes, Shelly saw the police cars approaching –so did the intruder. He exited by the rear of the house with the police in pursuit. Shelly credits her quick thinking to a Realtor Beware program she attended.
Red is Attacking your Attacker. The threat of violence is imminent and you move to attack your attacker to prevent personal bodily injury. You move to defend yourself using skills gained through personal safety education programs.
Carol*, 53, a former Winnipeg homemaker turned college student, who was trained in self-defense, was returning to her car after an evening class when she heard footsteps from behind. Already in a state of yellow, Carol accelerated her mental state to Orange while pivoting on her lead foot to turn to her side and face whomever was behind. A man, about 30, 180 cm tall, wearing a dark parka, stopped within a meter of Carol as she stood with her textbook in her rear hand, ready to move. “You don’t stand a chance lady,” he laughed. “What are you going to do, hit me with that book?” Without hesitation, Carol jammed the book into his face, grabbed him around the waist, kneed him twice and pushed him back then ran to her car.
* The last names of those who have shared their stories have been omitted at their request for privacy
Do not carry a knife for personal protection. Although some knife styles, such as the traditional “pen knife,” are legal to carry in Canada, don’t do it. A knife, or a hand-gun (illegal to carry on your person) could be taken and used against you. Instead, learn to use your hands/feet and tools in your environment for your safety.
Pat*, 62, of Vancouver Island, uses a cane for balance. Through a course from her recreation center, her cane is now a protection tool. If attacked, she will jam the handle of the cane forcefully into the attacker’s throat, allowing her time to escape. Canes are available at pharmacies and walking sticks from many sporting goods outlets or recreational outfitters.
A personal alarm is a deterrent, a first line of defense. It is about the size of a man’s wallet costing approximately $20. It can be worn inside a purse/fanny pack with the activating cord hanging within reach. Do not purchase an alarm without hearing it -some are not as loud as others- and do not use one as your sole means of personal safety –couple it with skills and techniques. Lorex has an excellent item with a flashing light and loud siren thus extending its usefulness to recreational vehicle and motel/hotel travel. It also has a separate door alarm system and is available from hardware and department stores.
Dog Repellent (pepper spray) is legal to carry in Canada. Although intended for use against dogs, it is recommended by Vancouver Police Constable Anne Drennan that people disregard the product’s canine limitations and be prepared to use against a human assailant. Canisters that can be held in your hand and stored comfortably in your pocket range in price from $10 to 15. Available at hardware/sporting good stores and pharmacies. How is it used? Again, find someone who will teach you, then practice. Pepper Spray is a deterrent only and it is best to develop other skills to accompany the spray.
So, can you be assertive and attack your attacker? A confident attitude, prevention skills and physical techniques are the keys to your personal safety. Carry yourself erect, shoulders back, head up, look at people you pass and trust your instincts. Sidebar: Community-based Courses-Do’s and Don’t’s
Do: Start with the Yellow pages under Martial Arts or Self Defense.
Call your local Police Department. They may offer a course. But be aware, they may offer only prevention skills. You may wish to develop some physical techniques as well.
Ask for credentials. A Black Belt in a martial art does not necessarily qualify someone to teach self- defense. Look for a Combat Martial Arts/Street Fighting background
Speak with someone who has taken the course.
Inquire at community centers.
Ask to watch a class. Are you comfortable with the skills taught? Instructor: Male or Female? Use the above criteria but remember, the majority of assailants are men and a male instructor will probably duplicate an assailant’s actions more realistically.
Take Karate, Tae Kwon Do or other traditional arts that require lengthy study.
Take a course requiring physically demanding skills: high kicks, exaggerated hand and arm movements are ineffective for personal protection.
Expect guarantees. There are none in life.
Take male bashing courses: a course designed to improve female self-esteem by striking a willing, padded assailant.
Study bravado. Avoid male or female instructors who appear to enjoy throwing their students around or boast, “I was raised in a rough neighborhood and know first hand about self-defense.” Such behavior is unnecessary.
Take a course that uses “words only” and not physical skills. Words may deescalate but can not extricate.
Procrastinate. Decide you are going to gain the skills then:
Sidebar: Videos and Books
Personal protection tapes are not unlike those for other disciplines; some are good and some are not. They are available from video stores and mail order catalogues. You usually cannot preview a selection. Apply the criteria to the video instructor as you would to community course selection.
Fight Back, a video by Michael Pareella and Wendy Mock offers sage prevention tips as well as proper use of your heel-palm, elbow and knee. Step into an attacker when using these movements. Available from: Schoolhouse Videos 919-990-2654 (#7647)
In Streetwise, a book by Arthur Cohen, the author discusses: home security, car safety, pepper spray and make-shift weapons. Available: Target Consultants Box 463, Massapequal park, New York 11762
The Danger from Strangers, a book by James D. Brewer, provides attackers’ profiles, avoidance techniques and advice on when to fight or flee. Available at bookstores or your library. Plenum Press $32. ISBN # 0-306-44642-1
Jonathan McCormick has a 6th Degree Black Belt in Combat Martial Arts and is the former personal security columnist with the Vancouver Province. He has conducted personal security workshops in Canada and the United States and is writing Kids First, a parental guide for child safety. He may be reached at jonathanmccormick.com