Tuesday, January 21, 2014

All that is required for evil to succeed…

"All that is required for evil to succeed…Is for good people to do nothing."

This powerful saying has come up time and time again in discussions among Protect instructors, clients, and friends over the past decade. Every single day we see blatant examples of apathy, indifference and denial playing a role in situations of violence where victims/targets were not helped in their moment of need. We see it regularly in domestic situations, child abuse situations, animal abuse, and also in violent situations ‘on the street’.

This has again been highlighted this week by the vicious attack on Mrs Pravit Singh, in Papatoetoe, Auckland. For reference you should read the article here:

At Protect, we deal in the currency of reality, not martial arts or movies, not from the safe confines of the ‘keyboard commando’s’ battle-station (Mum’s sofa), and not from  behind some politicians desk. So as usual, after an event like this is reported (we see them every day, occasionally one is reported), when we hear all of the opinions and advice from everyone from politicians to neighbours, and from martial artists to reporters, we tend to cringe. The reason for that is that suddenly everyone is an expert on the situation. Suddenly everyone is a bullet-proof SAS commando with the emotional response of a cyborg terminator. And they all know “what they would have done”. Or worse, they all know “what the victim SHOULD have done”. We have a term for this phenomena at Protect; “White Noise” (we actually have a far more descriptive and accurate term for it but as it contains profanity I shan’t repeat it here). Most of it is as useful, and as annoying as white noise on a TV set.

So you know what you would have done huh? No, you don’t.
You may speculate on what you may have done in a similar situation, but nobody really knows. Nobody. There are too many variables in a real live dynamic situation for anybody to be able to say what they ‘would have done’. Sure, if you are trained to deal with these situations you will have dramatically more options than someone who is not, but even then you cannot say for sure. The situation always dictates the possible responses, there is no “black and white answer”.
As for the people who trumpet their misguided opinions on what Mrs Singh “Should have done”…I have two words for you. You may guess them in your own time. Mrs Singh has survived an horrific, traumatic event. She did the absolute best that she could given the situation, a situation where onlookers watched as she screamed for help while being attacked but nobody helped, and she should be praised for it. People have emailed me this week saying that I should write an article now about what would have happened if Mrs Singh had self-defence training. My answer; “Absolutely no way”. Why? Quite simply because it will not change anything now, will it? Many victims of violent events will blame themselves as it is, they will be confused, uncertain, fearful (all completely normal), and one of the worst things to say to them is “you should have done this” or “If I was you, I would have done this”. It is insensitive, callous, and totally ignorant and misinformed.

But it does once again bring to light the question my team has been asked literally hundreds of times; “Should I get involved if I see someone in trouble?”. Although there are few absolutes with anything to do with self-protection or violence, the answer to this question is ‘almost’ (there are always exceptions) always YES. To some degree at least.

We have studied at length the ‘bystander effect’ and it is a complex and multi-faceted issue. But I certainly believe it is the responsibility of anyone who is witness to any type of abuse, assault, mistreatment to at least do SOMETHING. If something is nothing more than dialling emergency services and getting help on the way that is still something. If it is intervening verbally, that is something. If it is intervening physically, that is something else. Which option is right will depend on many factors, the variables in the situation, the witness’s perception of their ability to handle the situation, past associations the witness may have to violent encounters, and predominantly…Fear.

It’s interesting to me that a pod of whales strand themselves on the same day Mrs Singh was attacked and hundreds of people come from all over to help (good for them of course) but a woman is being beaten only 10 meters away and nobody helps. What’s the difference? It is (at least in part) very obvious. Violence is not a factor with the whales. There is no perceived threat to personal safety with the whales. But when witnessing a violent encounter where a person needs help, the universal human phobia comes into play and causes hesitation, or inaction. I believe that most people do want to help, so what gets in the way?

Is it fair to be concerned about your personal safety? Of course it is. People have been killed (Vulcan Lane, Auckland in 2008 for example) intervening, others have been seriously hurt. Is it fair to worry about retaliation from the attacker(s) if you intervene? Absolutely it is, it happens all the time, and since our justice system is a bad joke where violent offenders are regularly given bail (some of whom go on to kill/rape/attack people while on bail) when they should be behind bars, it’s a very valid concern. Is it fair to worry about legal consequences? Yes, absolutely it is. Is it fair to worry about your family at this time? Yes. I could go on with dozens of other concerns, most of which would be totally valid. But do any of these excuse us from doing absolutely nothing? Doubtful.

On the same day that this event happened to Mrs Singh (and a bunch of others too which are not reported) one of our trainers in Auckland intervened successfully in a rapidly escalating situation at a skating rink. It involved multiple persons, and a very clear aggressor and a very clear ‘victim/target’ who did not want anything to do with it. In a matter of seconds (because she is trained and knows what to look for and how to assess a situation very quickly) she had assessed the situation, determined that intervention was necessary, given clear directives to the people she was with, and acted with absolute assertive authority and conviction, putting herself into a volatile situation to help another person. She was able to defuse the situation and control the scene to ensure that no further escalation happened before the victim was away from the scene. She did a fantastic job. Would I suggest that everybody should take that course of action? Hell no. She is trained for this stuff, she has a far greater probability of success than the average person. But if she had of decided that the situation was too dangerous to enter, she would have at least picked up the phone.

The way that Mrs Singh was left un-aided in her moment of need is horrible. But it is also unfortunately extremely common. I recognise and understand the phenomena. What can we do about it? I think it starts with awareness. Awareness of the problem and a few hard questions asked of ourselves about what we are willing to do if we witness an event like this. We will never have a definite answer but we can at least make a decision not to be followers and instead take personal responsibility and at least do…something. After all, if it was ourselves this was happening to, what would we want to happen? Indifference kills, folks.

“Be the change we want to see in the world”Ghandi

(oh, and let’s not forget… “Actions speak louder than words”).


Sunday, November 3, 2013

Another senseless death...(and some food for thought)

It saddened me to hear of yet another senseless death this weekend, caused by (at the physical level) a punch to the head resulting in impact with the ground and serious injury leading to the loss of another life (this young man has passed away from his injuries).

I have written and spoken about this subject several times so won't rehash the same opinions except to say that this is so common as to be a real concern. I was speaking to one of our senior members, a very experienced Police Officer, this weekend about the event and his comment was "it's just all the time, it's so common". After 20 years in this industry I certainly agree, we see this all of the time, sometimes resulting in serious injury, sometimes resulting in death.

Obviously, Protect training helps you to avoid these situations happening to you or your loved ones through increased ability to recognise, avoid, de-escalate, or physically respond to violence to keep safe, but what about looking at this from a different angle for a moment..?

I wrote a magazine article recently (Read it HERE) regarding some of the downsides to be aware of when punching to the head is trained as a primary response. One of those considerations is the potential damage to your opponent which may have unintended (as well as un-justified) consequences.

I know a man, a good human being with a good heart, who killed a man. He did not intend to do this, he was placed in a situation where he was legally, morally, and ethically justified in defending himself against a violent assault, so he did. Unfortunately though his only "self defence" (what he had been told/sold was "self defence") training was in boxing and kickboxing (two great combat sports and he was great at them both). His response, having no ability to de-escalate at all (he himself says that it could have very likely been diffused had he been given those skills instead of a purely physical option only) was to unleash a flurry of punches, one of which knocked the person unconscious, resulting in his head smashing into the pavement when he fell. And he died.

To give the story above some context, this was not some predatory criminal. It was a classic 'ego-based' situation in the courtyard of a pub, which could very likely have been de-escalated. It started when this guy accidently stepped back, bumping the other guy and spilling his drink on him. The offender, protecting his ego, went through all of the usual 'Pre-Contact' behaviour and then shoved the other guy and cocked his fist ready to punch him. Does that sound like a justifiable reason to use force to protect oneself, yes. But does it sound like a justifiable reason to take this guy off the planet? To take a son from his parents? A father from his kids? A spouse from his partner? You can answer that one. But that is exactly what happened. Why? Because that is what he had been trained to do. It is not what he intended, not for a moment, but remember, whatever goes "on the disk" is what's coming off the disk. We don't rise to the occasion in a violent encounter, we sink to the level of our training. In this case he did a great job of doing what he had been trained to do. The unfortunate reality is that his training was grossly flawed. And it cost him dearly (it cost the other guy and his loved ones more). I will not go into details of the consequences caused to this guy by this situation except to say that they were all negative. The consequences to violence always are.

At Protect we are very aware, when we train the physical aspects of self-defence, to consider the potential outcomes of our actions at a legal, moral, and ethical level. But we are the vast exception to the norm, and that is very unfortunate and will be the undoing of many people. There are times when an extreme level of force is necessary, justified, and reasonable. But real self-protection training in our opinion had better equip the trainee with the ability to know the difference and have the right "toolbox" to be able to adjust the level of force to suit the situation. That decision-making process needs to be made under the stress and pressure of the situation which requires a very specific way of training, which is vital to what we do at Protect.

We have even evolved many of the physical strategies that we teach and train in to have the ability to achieve the intended level of damage to the opponent, while at the same time keeping them as safe as possible from unintended consequences. This is work in progress but it is something we consider to be showing the highest level of responsibility to the people we train.

I encourage all of our instructors, trainers, and clients to challenge the status quo, to ask questions, to think for themselves and to look outside the box. That is how Protect has evolved. I encourage you to do the same. If you are training in any form of martial art, combatives, or anything else stating to teach you "self defence", stop and ask yourself if it adequately covers the legal, moral, and ethical consequences and considerations of what you are learning. If it doesn't, you may have a very big problem and it may be time to start asking some serious questions. Remember that you need to be very careful what you practise as you may become VERY good at doing the wrong thing.

This is just food for thought as always.



"Hello. You don't know me..." (Trigger Warning)

The below, from 'Safe For Life' is a quick look into one example of the mind of a predator. It is NOT intended to create un-warranted fear or to be a scare tactic, it is simply study material to help us understand the mindset of the enemy and help overcome the apathy mentality. This is just one example, each situation is different, but it is all interesting and can add value to your safety and awareness. At Protect we have worked with dozens of people who are/have been the target of 'Stalking' situations, from CEO's and celebrities, to everyday women (and several men) of all ages. Although the vast majority of the offenders are known to the targeted person, the below is one example of a look into the mind of an offender not directly known to the target.
At Protect we have a saying: "Although someone else may choose you as a target, you decide whether you become a victim or not".
Hello. You don't know me and you never will, but I know you. I've been watching you.

I've studied your habits and I will make myself known to you…when I see fit. I've
bumped into you at the local supermarket. By the way, you and I share the same taste in
cuisine. It's too bad you're too stuck up and could never see yourself having a romantic
dinner with the likes of me. On the day we meet, you may, however, change your mind. I
know you're intelligent; I'm aware of the books you read. Sometimes I've even read
parts of your book with you. I love to read over your shoulder. I can smell your hair.

We connected once. Remember when you felt uncomfortable for a moment? It was

during your lunch hour break and you were reading beside your favourite tree. I was

there, and you looked confused. I laughed. You prefer the shade there when the sun

seems too strong. When you leave your house at 7:00 am, I am there watching you. I see

you wave to your neighbour as the two of you seem to leave your driveways at the same
time to start your workdays. I don't like him. That's ok though, I'll take care of him. I
know your outfits and I know how you try to accessorize to make it seem like you have

more than you actually own. I can almost tell, based on the weather as to what outfit
you'll pick out for the day. I prefer when you have your hair out as opposed to when you
tie it up on the weekends. I like the changes you made to your bedroom and kitchen. It
certainly is a lot brighter in there. More room in the bedroom closet I've noticed, that's

nice. I walked behind you today as you went window-shopping. You left your purse open, right after you bought the vanilla ice cream. I know how sensitive

you are. I can tell by the movies you rent. You don't notice me; you're too into reading

the backs of the movies. It's ok for now but soon you won't be able to think of
anyone or anything but ME. I will posses every thought you will have. Every emotion

will be with ME in mind. Everyone you see will remind you of ME. Why? Because,
that's the way it should be and so it will become. You will answer to me and don't think
for a moment that your boyfriend scares me. I know the car he drives. I sometimes sit in

it for kicks and watch the both of you through your living room windows when he visits
you. I can take away his brakes if I want, what does he suspect, it's a new car and he
drives way too fast. He might hurt someone with his sloppy driving skills. I could do

everyone a favour and get rid of him. Would you prefer I do it by pills? He trusts me you
know. I've been a baker to him and I could be his next pharmacist. You make me laugh.

I know you know I'm watching. Your silly little schoolyard prank of trying to make me

jealous just doesn't work you stupid bitch! Have a good night's sleep, maybe I'll see you

tomorrow and maybe I'll come up into your bedroom and tuck you in for the evening.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

What can we, as parents and caregivers, do?

The best thing we can do as parents or caregivers to keep our kids safe from predators, as ugly as it might seem, is acknowledge these three unpleasant truths:

1.      You do not get to choose who a predator targets; it is the predator who chooses who they target.

2.      The first person who experiences any evidence or sees any indication that a child is becoming the target of a predator is the child themselves.

3.      Every child will be “assessed” or “scoped” by a predator at some stage.


These are massive statements, so let me be very clear what we know as fact about the above statements.


We know, to protect our children, it’s vitally important that we understand these elements. But as illustrated by a parent talking to me recently - who has been discussing this very issue with other parents - she candidly shared with me that about half of the parents she had talked to about this issue shut her down straight away and made it clear that they didn’t want to talk about it. The other half were open to talk about it. It spooks me that we all aren’t open to talk about it. I feel it’s an important step in building the defence of our kids.


We know that not talking about a problem and taking steps to stop a problem are two different things.


So let’s reword these 3 initial statements to add clarity.


The first, though it needs no further explanation, is not something we tend to think about – we are good caregivers and we are alert and keep out senses honed for all dangers to our kids. We make sure that they are safe all the time. Gosh, we don’t even start driving the car until all the seatbelts are on. And that’s good and safe.


But this is different. This is not about how safe we are being, this is about something we don’t have direct control over. We have control over how safely we drive, we don’t have control over how safely others drive. We’d choose our children not to be targeted by predators, but it’s not our choice. So when a parent thinks or expresses “stuff like this happens to other kids” – I wonder: Are you saying that as a parent or a predator? Because as a parent, that statement is worthless and dangerous at best.


Which leads into the second point: As much as we want to protect our kids, this danger of a predator has the added disadvantage to us of not being able to see the danger at all - as it is purposely being hidden. Why would the predator risk raising any alarm? You know they don’t and won’t, so there’s nothing – no act nor clue that would be in your presence, so obviously it is the child who first experiences what will likely be some grooming or vetting questions or manipulative ploys or lures.


Because we don’t know who the predators are until they are caught (and they are only caught after they do something – how much does that suck!) then they are free in our society until then. Some are caught early, some are caught late – meaning perhaps after years and after they have assaulted and abused many many kids.


Your kids won’t by chance find stumble across a predator; no, it is the predator looking for our kids. They will put themselves in positions where they will meet many kids and they will be assessing and vetting all who come in contact with them.


Ok, I know things sound bleak and negative, but the world we live in has not changed since you started reading this blog. It’s exactly the same. And the predators that existed at the start of this blog exist now. It’s that we might be more aware of a horrible issue and some truths that live in that issue that we’d prefer not to know.


So let’s talk solutions now. You understand this: What has been discussed above are elements of privacy: The predator needs two things; they need privacy, and they need control. They will establish privacy – you know this; you know that they will assess, choose and approach our kids under the cloak of privacy. Privacy is something that the predator has direct influence over – and we’ve discussed the elements of privacy. But not Control.


Control is where we can wage our defence – making sure that the control stays with the child – that they understand and appreciate and know that they can defend their absolute and sovereign right to decide what they want to do. To decide what’s wrong and what’s right and unwaveringly express and stick to their decision – and they can unleash whatever they want if they feel that they need to. This means that they are what we call a “hard target”. They are not impossible to control, but most importantly, they are now too difficult and too risky to control for the predator.


Teaching our kids about what we in Protect define as Control - the decision a child owns and what they can do to enforce them - decreases the balance of probability our kids are even targeted.


We teach our kids because it’s the repercussions that are unthinkable – but this strategy can’t be done if it’s chosen that; the risk itself, that the existence of predators and that it is our kids that might be targeted, is unthinkable.




Darcy Mellsop

Protect Self Defence NZ

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

What are YOU looking at ?

Article from Waikato Times - 8/4/2013 Original Article HERE

Alistair Bone talks to experts about what to do if you are male and are confronted by another drunk male. 
The aftermath of the attack on Jesse Ryder, if that's what it turns out to be, is still playing out in the courts. Police initially said that it was not alcohol related, which seems strange on the face of it, as it happened after midnight outside a bar where everyone involved had been a few moments before.

Notwithstanding police perceptions, it's undeniable that drunken assaults happen often, and often to innocent parties. There is a large amount of resources available to women on how to stay safe when out at night, but not so many for guys, who are usually attacked under a completely different set of circumstances.
John Oetzel is a professor at Waikato University's school of management. His job is teaching people how to deal with difficult conversations, usually in an office setting, but he also has a few tips for men who come face to face with an aggressive drunk. Phil Thompson runs Protect Self Defence and is regularly on TV telling people how to be safe.

Thompson believes most situations can be avoided. Alert people can see trouble coming a mile off. "There are a bunch of pre-contact indicators. For instance, in almost every situation, we get what you call the ‘hard stare' from someone who wants problems. The guy might be standing there, drinking and talking to his mates, and you'll see him turn and look, and look back to his beer, and then very quickly come back to you and hold that stare in place. He is now fixated on you. If it's going to be a group attack, there is usually then some group communication with the people he's with. Then there'll be a group hard stare."

Oetzel says it is easy to innocently provoke drunken violence with a look of your own. Where he grew up, in Albuquerque, New Mexico, there was a strong Hispanic and Latino influence with macho rules around eye contact. "We called staring ‘mad-dogging'. The rule was never to make sustained eye contact with other guys if you didn't want to fight. You made it briefly and then looked away."
He also says to be wary of a drunk person within your group. "You can see a drunk person escalating conflict and if you're friendly with them, you're not going to be the one they go after. But look for snide remarks from someone you don't know very well."

Thompson says the way the attackers then start acting can be telling. "As they're walking toward you, very often it will be accompanied by what we call a ‘head on a swivel'. They're looking around to see who's around and what the situation is. Usually people who are aggressive will come up on their toes and hold their weight high. They will puff out to get the basketball-under-the-arm look."
The really clever ones get out of the joint right away. But sometimes you are cornered. Oetzel says the first thing you need to confront is yourself. "It is critical that you remain calm. You can do that with deep breathing or internal self-talk: telling yourself that everything's going to be OK and you are going to walk away."

Tone of voice, he believes, is crucial. "If you raise your voice, the other person is going to continue to escalate. They are still going to continue to escalate anyway, but it will be worse if you don't remain calm and use a slow, calm voice." Smiling can be misinterpreted as smugness. "Some people can get out of it because they are very charismatic and start joking, but that can also backfire pretty easy, too."

The rules of the conversation are different with a drunk, says Oetzel. "In normal situations, a lot of what we do is around getting the other person to give you respect. But trying to convince a drunk at a bar, who's trying to pick a fight, that you're worthy of respect isn't going to work. You don't argue, you don't disagree with them, you don't tell them they're wrong, you don't try to convince them why you're right. When you have someone who's famous, sometimes people will approach them and the whole goal will be to cut them down, physically or emotionally."

The next bit can be the hardest part, especially for young Kiwi blokes out on the razz. "Accept the put-downs," says Oetzel. "If they're going to call you names, just say, yup. Give them the emotional victory and avoid violence. The idea of losing a little pride in that situation and avoiding physical violence may be hard to accept, but you're not dealing with a rational person."

Thompson, who also teaches physical self-defence and can easily look after himself if he has to, agrees. "I tell all the alpha male types on my course that it's OK to walk away. It's not about becoming a victim, it's about empowering yourself and not being a slave to your emotions, like most people are."
Thompson divides aggression into two classes. The predatory, criminal type and the more common ego-driven type usually found in pubs. The goal when dealing with the ego type is to let the other guy escape with his ego intact.

There are four basic rules. He says the first is to not challenge the person. "Returning abuse is wrong. You have to be unchallenging in what you say and with your body language. As soon as you challenge them, they can't walk away." 
You can't threaten them, either. "Either overtly, if you are angry - get the hell away from me - or even by threatening to call the police."

The next rule goes against what some others teach. "You can't command them or tell them what to do. ‘Back off, get away.' " Thompson says this is OK and effective when dealing with a criminal, predatory attacker, but won't work with someone driven by ego. "You see this in a domestic situation where people are having an argument and one person tells the other to calm down. That never, ever works."

Accepting a command would damage the ego. "Better would be: Listen mate, I didn't come here for any issues with you, I really want to solve this problem, but for us to do that we both need to be calm. I'm not telling him to calm down, I'm saying it's really important that we are both calm, giving the illusion that we both have the same problem. Then you can start a dialogue."

Implying that the drunk is wrong is also a mistake. Thompson says if someone uses the time-tested approach of "you were staring at me/my missus", you have to be able to tell them they were right, but for a different reason. Thompson recently apologised to an aggressive drunk and told him that he was just tired and staring into space. The guy backed off saying, "OK, but don't f...ing look at me again." Thompson says this is the point where many people's egos fire up and they react to the drunk. "But that insult that he threw at the end is his way out, his face-saver."

Oetzel says acting scared is a mistake. "Bullies prey on fear, and a drunk person who escalates a situation is a bully who's drunk. You have got to be strong without being too aggressive. You don't want to disagree with the person, but you don't want to let them know that you're afraid, either. You have to be firm without being defensive and argumentative. It's a fine line."

The end game can be deceptive, too. It's not over when the drunk walks away, says Oetzel. "It isn't over until they are completely out of your sight. Just because they walk away and sit at the other end of the bar doesn't mean it's over. You make it over by getting out of there."

Thompson agrees. "If you successfully de-escalate, get out. It's only over when you're home and safe."
Thompson teaches ordinary people how to fight effectively in a bar as part of his training course, but he wouldn't recommend it as a hobby. He says you'll be lucky these days if there's just one attacker. You'll be doubly lucky if there are no weapons used. Another whole segment of his course is on how to deal with the aftermath of a pub brawl and the legal, emotional and ongoing physical toll it leaves behind.
He says it's important to realise that sometimes there's just no way out and a physical attack happens to an innocent person.

"It's important because anyone who has been through that should not think they have done something wrong."

Drunk dickheads are sometimes just a fact of life.

- © Fairfax NZ News

Sunday, November 11, 2012

"Survival Of The Littlest"...Latest Article in Blitz Magazine

Buy "Empower Your Kids to be Safe...for Life HERE or at Amazon.com.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

"Stranger Danger" and other myths...

Here is our latest article published in Blitz magazine. Enjoy!


"Empower Your Kids to be Safe...for Life" available in New Zealand HERE

Sunday, July 22, 2012

New Accredited Trainers in the South Island!

A HUGE welcome to the new Protect Accredited Trainers from Nelson and Christchurch!

From left: Aaron Williams (Nelson ITF), Craig Oliver (Pulse Taekwon-Do), Angela Oliver (Pulse Taekwon-Do), Luke Jackson (Pulse Taekwon-Do), Kris Herbison (Riccarton Taekwon-Do), Tomonori Shibata (Riccarton Taekwon-Do), Damon Stewart (Pulse Taekwon-Do).

Welcome to the program team!

For ful list of Accredited Trainers in NZ go the the Protect Group Classes website HERE