Human predators, the kind that prey on other humans, stalk their prey. They choose the time and place, and they choose who they will attack. Many self-defense and personal security programs devote a great deal of energy to teaching strategies that are designed to de-select their students as victims. This is a lot like when you were taught to obey the rules of the road during driver’s education. Stay mindful of the rules of the road and apply the strategies you were taught and you will not only be likely to drive safely, but also avoid another type of hunter the traffic cop. Unlike the rules of the road, street survival strategies are not written down nor are they formally taught. Therefore any well designed personal protection program teaches this as part of its suite of “software” skills to its students. These strategies can generally be categorized as avoidance, awareness and assertiveness and this is as it should be.
Now think back to the last time you were pulled over by a cop and got a ticket. Despite your formal driving training and the considerable experience you had developed during all your countless hours behind the wheel, you still got pulled over. You see, when a police officer is making traffic stops he or she is acting a lot like a violent predator. During these duties a police officer will be highly attuned to anything that signals prey. They know the territory better than you. In fact they have selected their spot because it puts you at a disadvantage. Along you come and instead of your normally switched-on self, today you are distracted. And that is life, isn’t it? Life can get in the way of the things we should be doing at the time and in the moment all the awareness skills we have been taught at the martial arts dojo (and practiced if we got the right kind of training) won’t do us a bit of good.
Effective personal protection training simply must go further. Students need to understand the paradigms followed by such predators so that they can quickly identify what they are dealing with even when it is already happening to them. Next, some general protocols will be helpful. Pilots use them for emergencies in the air and so should we. They are not a panacea but they are a damn good place to start. These must be worked out in advance by the student and a qualified coach. Another critical component will be dealing with the disproportionate motivation between victim and attacker. The attacker will likely be practiced and motivated—you will not. You will need to have worked out and internalized a reason, a survival imperative, beforehand. This mental trigger will pull you from denial into taking action and doing the things you need to do in order not to be victimized by this creep. The final essential component is experience. If your training does not include reality based scenarios designed to simulate the duress produced during real violence, don’t expect that it will help you when the chips are down. Only a program designed by a coach that fully understands the process of developing reality-based training programs can give you what you need.