Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Protect on TV3...

Here's another video from a TV3 programme 'Pacific Beat Street' which airs on multiple channels in New Zealand featuring Protect Self Defence's founders Phil and Athena Thompson. Good times! :-)

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Protect on TV again!

Protect Self Defence featured on TV again this week, this time on TVNZ's "Would Like To Work"...

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Free video on Self Defence Fundamentals!

Hi Everyone,

We have had so many questions on the fundamental aspects of our training that we have done something very cool for you...Click on this link:

Enter your name and email and we will send you a video that was taken at one of our recent seminars where I explain many of our fundamentals. Not only that, but you can get a second video for free too, instructions on how to do that are on the email you will receive when you request this one.

Anyone interested in real self defence will get good value from these videos. I'd love to hear your feedback too.



Thursday, October 14, 2010

Latest Article from Darcy: "Ego and Intuition"

Wellington Protect Self Defence Instructor Darcy Mellsop has been writing a series of articles for a Wellington newspaper. Here is his latest...

Another Hoax Email...Don't waste your time forwarding to anyone...

Here is another hoax email doing the rounds. Don't waste your time and your friend's time by sending these on, they rarely add any value at all and generally just promote unwarranted fear and worry. This one has been adapted from an Urban Legends website...

"This has happened on Barrett Road in New Plymouth

Worth Passing On!

This is happening now!

Sad, especially if you are inclined to 'help' people....

While driving on a rural end of the roadway on Thursday
morning, I saw an infant car seat on the side of the
road with a blanket draped over it. For whatever
reason, I did not stop, even though I had all kinds of
thoughts running through my head. But when I got to my
destination, I called the Police and they were going
to check it out. But, this is what the Police advised
even before they went out there to check....

"There are several things to be aware of ... gangs and
thieves are now plotting different ways to get a person
(mostly women)to stop their vehicle and get out of the

"There is a gang initiation reported by the local
Police where gangs are placing a car seat by the
road...with a fake baby in
it...waiting for a woman, of course, to stop and check
on the abandoned baby.

"Note that the location of this car seat is usually
beside a wooded or grassy (field) area and the person
-- woman -- will be dragged into the woods, beaten and
raped, and usually left for dead. If it's a man,
they're usually beaten and robbed and maybe left for
dead, too.


DIAL 1 1 1




Please talk to your loved ones about this. This is a
new tactic used. Please be safe.


Good storyline for a cheap horror movie though... :-)

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

We (Protect Self Defence) and Darcy Mellsop (Protect Wellington Region Instructor) have been presented the rare 'Certificate Of Friendship' from Wellington Rape Crisis for the work we are doing with them. This is very cool! :-)

Tuesday, September 14, 2010


I have seen some interesting fights and situations in my time...But this one...:-)

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Wellington Charity Seminar another success...

The following is a blog from Wellington Regional Instructor Darcy Mellsop. It has to go under my profile for now until we get this blog issue sorted...:-) Phil

Last Thursday (2nd September) Phil and I ran our Women’s personal safety seminar (as designed by Athena) in Wellington, which complemented the same seminar that we ran in Auckland in July. Christchurch – we are too weary to venture down there just yet! In all seriousness, you have our thoughts and support as you rebuild your city and feeling of peace – take care down there our beloved Cantabrians.

The seminar was packed full of strategies that can be used to keep ourselves safer – and Phil and I talked non-stop for 2 hours. The core focus were 7 manipulation strategies that men with sinister intent use. 2 hours of talking, surely that’s information overload? No, the time seemed to fly by and going by the responses the attendees at the event were really positive, and were prepared to really investigate violence to a detailed extent.

We know that coming to an event like this for many means stepping well out of their comfort zone, and of course, when you do this – in the right environment – you are duly rewarded. Perhaps Phil and I can take a little credit for the environment we set, but not the decision made by the participants to come along. Ignorance of violence is not an effective protection strategy, but it isn’t a pretty subject to talk about. But really, that’s a subject for another blog some other time.

As with any course or seminar that Protect runs, we found it hugely rewarding. And more than anything, we are rewarded when we hear what others experience at our seminars. Here are some of the responses from those who attended:

• "Thanks to you and Phil (and Athena) for putting this seminar together. The content was very powerful, and like a great movie (and I’m not talking ‘chick flick’!), it stayed with me for a loooooong while after. I appreciated yours and Phil’s honesty. It’s not always easy to talk about the truth…"

• "I just wanted to thank you very much for the seminar the other evening. There were a few a-ha moments for me during the evening and I thought you and Phil provided very in-depth reasonings behind your findings."

• "Really enjoyed meeting you and Phil the other night and was impressed with the seminar - so not what I expected."

And from Wellington Rape Crisis:

“... want to sincerely thank you and Phil for being so supportive and generous to Wellington Rape Crisis. What you raised from the seminar really is a big deal for us, and we are just so grateful!...I want to acknowledge the careful, thoughtful, sensitive and analytical approach you took to sexual violence and gendered violence...”

How much did we raise for Wellington Rape Crisis? $748.10

Oh, and I final comment from a participant:
"I think you did a fantastic job, not only the standing up and the kangaroo story"

Want to know what the Kangaroo story is about? See you at the next Wellington seminar on Saturday 6th November – bookings can be made now on our events page. Proceeds again to Wellington Rape Crisis.

And if I am to have the final word – it is this, thank you for coming – it was an absolute pleasure. As always, take care.


Sunday, September 5, 2010

Empty the cup a bit? Maybe?

I just had an interesting experience which got me thinking so I thought I’d write it down...

I was having lunch with some old colleagues and a guy I have not met before today who is a friend of theirs. As we were chatting about our respective businesses the “new guy” who has apparently trained in martial arts(“Bill”) said to me, without any pre-framing, “Self Defence aye? So what are YOU going to teach me that I don’t already know?!”
Now given that tonality accounts for a very large portion of verbal communication it would not have mattered what came out of his mouth at that moment, in the tone that he said this to me in it was immediately obvious that ego was in the driving seat.

My reply was, in a friendly and respectful tone “That depends, what do you want to learn?”

His reply “I already know everything I need to know about fighting!”

“Do I even bother?” Was my thought process at this stage. I really just wanted to enjoy lunch...

So my reply was “Cool. Well I’d love to pick your brain sometime about fighting, I love to learn from anyone with experience, because I sure don’t know everything about fighting, and in return maybe I could give you some info on self-defence?” (note the deliberate attempt to infer that they are two TOTALLY different animals)

His (overtly sarcastic) reply was “They’re the same bloody thing mate! What the hell are you talking about? Have you just started or something?”

At this point I decided that I really couldn’t be bothered. I just didn’t feel like getting into it and I have learned that the best way to be invincible is to become defenceless, that is, not attached to any one point of view but to be open to other opinions even if I don’t share them, so I just let it go.

“Fair enough mate. Tell me about your business it sounds really interesting?” That was all I had to do to re-direct the energy as the rest of that conversation was centred around him and his business. It was so apparent though as he talked that he shared the “I know everything and no-body can teach me anything” attitude in his business and other aspects of his life too. Many of which it seems are struggling, a lot.

Fear seemed to be fuelling his ego and ego of course fuels all manner of justifications. I guess this attitude fulfils his need for certainty, but what about the need for growth? That seemed so seriously lacking. Everything in life is either growing or dying, if you stand still too long you get left behind as the world keeps moving forwards. Bruce Lee prophetically stated “The usefulness of the cup is it’s emptiness”. If our ‘cup’ is too full (or in “Bill’s” case overflowing) there is nothing anyone can ever teach us and we miss out on improving and growing and moving forward.

At first I felt sad for him that he was so obviously letting his fear of the unknown and his fear of stepping outside his comfort zone and learning new things hold him back, but then I remembered it is his choice to do so. It just made me think about some areas of my life where I may be slipping into the same belief system and becoming complacent, so Bill did me a favour in that regard as it caused me to take stock of myself.

Maybe it has just been my experience so far but every person I have met who has taught me a lot and who I have found to be knowledgeable and have valuable insight, in any field not solely Self Defence, has generally also freely admitted that they don’t know it all and are still constantly learning.

The Bill’s of this world do not know it all like they claim to. They just know all that they are willing to learn. And if that is bringing them the results that they want and they are happy, great. I just wonder if it really is and how much they will miss out on by having a full cup.

Anyway, it just got me thinking.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Serial Killer loose in Auckland!!! (Not!)

Hi Everyone,

Today I received the below ‘urgent’ email for the fourth time with people asking me what they should do from a self defence perspective to avoid this man. The answer to that is easy: Delete the email. It is a hoax, like most of these emails are. I have copied the email below NOT so that you forward it to your friends, NOT so that it has the intended effect of making you feel unwarranted fear, and NOT for any other reason other than I want to flesh out the topic of these emails briefly and it is good to see an example of what I am talking about. So here it is, with the discussion following it:

“ ( Article from Ten One , NZ Police Edition )

Know what money you are carrying! or pay using Eftpos you will see why as you read!

Be sure every lady is aware of this. Share it with your wife and
daughters. Know what money you are carrying. This was the first I have heard of a scheme like this.. I wanted to pass it along. Be safe! It
is something very serious to pay attention to.

Criminals are coming up with craftier, less threatening methods of attack, so we have to be extra cautious. Read on.

I live near Herne Bay in Auckland and as many of you know from
Police Ten Seven and last weeks news there is a killer in the Auckland area. I just want to let you know about an 'incident ' that happened to me a few days ago, and it may have been deadly.

At first I didn't go to the police or anyone with it because I didn't realize how serious this encounter was. But since I work in Comms ( NZ Police ) i told a few people about it, it wasn't long before I was paraded into Internal Affairs to tell them my story.

It was proximately 5:15 a.m. I had stayed with a friend in Manurewa and was on my way to work. I stopped at the Mobil Station Quay st City to get petrol. I purchased $10 petrol and a Diet Coke. I took into the store two $5 bills and four $1 coins (just enough to make my purchases ).

As I pulled away from the store, a man approached my car from the back side of the store (an unlit area). He was an approachable-looking' man(clean cut, clean shaven, dressed well, etc.). He walked up to my window and knocked. Since I'm very paranoid and 'always looking for the rapist or killer,' I didn't open the window I just asked what he wanted. He raised a $5 bill ("$5 Bill" - American terminology supposedly written by a kiwi - Phil) to my window and said, 'You dropped this.' Since I knew I had gone into the store with a certain amount of money, I knew I didn't drop it.
When I told him it wasn't mine, he began hitting the window and door, screaming at me to open my door, and insisting that I had dropped the money!

At that point, I just drove away as fast as I could. After talking to the Police at Auckland Central and spoke with Detective Kevin Hooper describing the man I saw, and the way he escalated from calm and polite to angry and was determined that I could have possibly encountered the killer myself.

Up to this point, it had been unclear as to how he had gained access to his victims, since there has been no evidence of forced entry into victim's homes, cars, etc and he is also the main suspect in the Stabbing case which took place in upmarket Remuera involving a 53 yo lady on March 26th , 2010.
And the fact that he has been attacking in the daytime, when women are less likely to have their guard up, means he is pretty BOLD.

So think about it...what gesture is nicer than returning money to someone that dropped it?????

How many times would you have opened your window (or door) to get your money and say thank you.... because if the person is kind enough to return something to you, then he can't really be a threat....can he????
Please be cautious! This might not have been the serial killer... but anyone that gets that angry over someone not accepting money from them, can't have honourable intentions. The most important thing to note is his reaction was! NOT WHAT I EXPECTED! A total surprise! But what might have happened if I had opened my door? I shudder to think!

Forward this to everyone you know...maybe they can be as fortunate as I was!

P.S . Ladies, really DO forward this to EVERYONE you know Even if this wasn't a serial killer, he looked nice, he seemed polite, he was apparently doing an act of kindness, but HE WAS NOT A NICE PERSON!!! Men send it to all the women in your life. What you do today is important because you are exchanging a day of your life for it. Make it a good one!
Please copy, paste and send this to anyone you think might benefit from this story”

Ok, so there it is. Most of us have seen this type of email before. Firstly let me confirm that it is fake. It is not from the ‘Ten One’ publication and it is not referring to any actual case in NZ. As far as I am aware there is no serial killer operating in Auckland and if there is this email has nothing to do with it.

So are these emails good or bad? Are they in any way helpful or are they just a nuisance? They all have a different slant to them of course so I’ll just comment on this one, it is fairly representative of the rest of this type though.

To start with, for the life of me I don’t know why people bother starting these fictitious email trails. I am not tech savvy at all so maybe there is a reason for it, a benefit to the original author, or maybe it is a case of ‘Occums Razor’ and these people really don’t have anything better to do so they sit around writing these things. (If anyone can shed light on that for me I’d love to hear it)

I’ll cut to the chase on the helpfulness vs nuisance value of this email. Is there some helpful value in it? Maybe, a little. I would break it down to about 95% nuisance and 5% value. The value (maybe) lies in that it increases some level of awareness around unsolicited approaches by strangers in ‘out-of-context’ situations and may help people think ahead of how they would deal with such situations if they should happen to them. This is a valuable exercise and follows a concept that we train in at Protect but it has to be done the right way, from a positive and empowering standpoint and that may not be the case here. It also highlights that ‘bad guys’ most of the time don’t ‘look like bad guys’, they look like every day people and it is their behaviour that makes them dangerous not their appearance. But that’s about it. A lot of it depends on the readers’ level of experience on the subject of violence and Self Defence. If the reader has a good understanding and knowledge of our training then they will be able to sort the wheat from the chaff and form their own educated opinions on the value of the email and what (if any) lessons can be taken from it. But for most people, they do not have any level of knowledge in this field (sadly) so this distinction cannot be made.

The other 95% is not just annoying, it is dangerous. It serves to create un-warranted fear in the reader. This un-warranted fear can manifest itself as worry, anxiety and hyper-tension and cause people to un-necessarily change their habits and develop a paranoia mindset. This is disempowering and dangerous. We have enough in our lives to worry about (and the media loves to add to that on a daily basis) without having these annoying emails compunding it. My advice is to skim read them if you feel like it and if they really do seem genuine (and that is highly unlikely) visit the police website to confirm. We are lucky to have a very well-informed and pro-active police force in NZ, if the threat is real they will let us know through official channels, not some ‘forward to your friends’ email trail. And when it turns out to be fake, delete it and get on with your day. Alternatively, just delete it straight away with all of the other SPAM as these usually carry as much value as the ones offering cheap Rolex watches, Viagra, or the 11.2 million dollar inheritance from King Jabbar of Nigeria.



Friday, July 23, 2010

The difference that makes a difference...

I’ve mentioned it before but I’ll say it again, I am a damn lucky guy to be able to train with the team at our group classes (as well as all of the other members of the Protect team).

This morning one of our team (who I just know would want to remain nameless out of humility) just mentioned an incident that happened this morning. He went into a coffee shop in Central Auckland and a homeless man was slumped over one of the tables. He had bought himself a coffee and apparently then sat down and just slumped onto the table face down. Apparently there were about 40 other people in the cafe and not a single one did anything except stare, giggle and whisper about it. But the fact was, he looked like he may have been very ill or even like he wasn’t breathing.

So what did our team member do? Ignore it or laugh at it like everyone else? Hell no. He went over to the gentlemen in front of everyone, firmly placed his hand on his shoulder (firm enough to wake him if he was asleep but in such a way to show that he wanted to help), to which the man woke up, and asked him “are you ok mate, I was a bit worried about ya”. The man was grateful but said he was fine, just tired.

Now, yes, before the emails come in about potential danger etc, our team member did it with his awareness up and with tactical positioning in case the gentlemen lashed out or something but he didn’t and it is important to keep things in context.

The reason I mention this though is because no-one else helped. Time and time again we hear about these things. And I know that every member of our team would have done something to help this guy out. While many others in the world stare and laugh, they care enough to offer a hand. That is it in a nutshell, they really care.

I am very proud and humbled to train with these people and be a part of their team. I may be the instructor, but they teach me as much as I teach them.

Cheers guys and gals, you rock.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Taboo subjects...Not any more.

One of the toughest parts of my job is that I often need to tell people things that they don’t want to hear. Often these things cause resistance but they are vitally important to people’s safety that they know them. Sometimes too the topics may be very uncomfortable. Here is an example of one of the uncomfortable ones...

Yesterday a person I know, who has not had any Self Defence training before called me and asked if he could meet me as soon as possible. He had just been in a threatening situation that morning and was still very shaken up and confused by it. I won’t go into the details of the situation, except to say that it was certainly not his fault, and the extent of the physical assault on him was to be pushed up against a wall and slapped across the face by his male aggressor. With absolutely no training he responded how most people do, he froze and had no idea what to do. Fortunately the situation diffused and the aggressor left him alone, albeit very shaken. I have his permission to use his case as an example.

I met him and had him explain in detail what had happened. I helped him re-define the meaning of the event for him and explained some ways with which he could deal with the aftermath trauma that he was experiencing. I sensed though that he was telling me 99% of it but holding something back. I didn’t press him on it, knowing that he would tell me if and when he was ready. After a while it came out. He said to me “Mate, something else happened and I am so ashamed of myself”. I asked him what that was, knowing it could be any number of stress responses that he was referring to, all perfectly normal.

He reluctantly told me that he had wet himself during the incident.

He was embarrassed to tell me this, ashamed of himself.

This is another classic demonstration of the level of most people’s knowledge around real violence, or more importantly, their lack of it. Most of what people think they know about violence and Self Defence in a very large pile of bull manure.

The fact is, as I explained to my friend, this is a perfectly normal human stress response. If you have contents in your lower intestines during a highly stressful situation, it is very likely to go. Your body at that point doesn’t care about bladder (or often too, sphincter) control, and may just let go. And if that happens what do you do? Keep focused on dealing with the situation. If you know it is normal and are ready for it if it happens then it won’t catch you off guard. But when is the last time someone told you about this and warned you that it may happen? When was the last time you watched an action flick where the lead actor playing a tough guy, cop, soldier, or whatever, wet his pants in the midst of combat? Not often, if ever.

If you have ever dealt with injured or traumatised people as an ambulance officer, firefighter, or police officer, then you know that a significant number urinate or defecate themselves.

Because of the stigma attached to this most often it is not something that is shared or discussed, so when it does happen to someone and they are not prepared it can leave them confused and thinking “what’s wrong with me?” Well, now that you have read this you know that in fact nothing is ‘wrong with you’ if it happens, it is normal. There is power in just knowing how normal it is.

One of the most studied events in history would have to be the 9/11 attacks, and yet very few know that apparently most of the survivors lost bladder and/or bowel control. Now does that make them less courageous at all? Of course not. But if it does happen to us it would be good and useful to know that it is normal.

Violence is a toxic, corrosive, often confusing environment. It is time to cut through all of the rubbish and get to the point so that we can better prepare people mentally, physically and emotionally should they need it and that is what we are doing.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Armed Robberies in Kiwi Businesses (and the 'armchair critics' advice...)

Sorry for the lack of regular blogs lately, we have had a huge month and been a bit snowed under!

In the past week I have had several people ask me about the 60 Minutes documentary shown last week discussing the spate of armed robberies happening to dairies and liquor stores in NZ, and specifically whether the staff should ‘fight back’.

The programme featured several different dairy owners who have been victims of armed holdups in their Auckland dairies (some multiple times). Some of them were of the opinion that they will always simply comply with the robber’s requests. Others believe it is better to ‘fight them off’. One man chased a robber who was armed with a knife out of his store with a machete and has labelled a hero by many.

The programme featured strongly the case of Mr Navtej Singh (who I wrote about here) who was shot dead by a robber in his Manurewa liquor store even though he was complying fully with the robber’s demands. Another dairy owner who complied had his throat cut (survived).

The question being raised was “what is the ‘right’ way to deal with these situations, fight back or comply”? I can appreciate where many people are coming from with this as it seems that the ‘rules have changed’ somewhat from the old belief of ‘give them whatever they want and get them out of there and you won’t be hurt’ as with the case of Mr Singh who it is believed complied fully and was still shot dead.

Firstly I want to make something very clear; I am not judging the actions of any of these people who have been victims of robberies in any way. They did the best with the information they had and whether it worked out well for them or not, that is all that can be asked of anybody.

So removing this blog away from any particular person and making it generically focused on the topics raised on the programme, let’s have a look at some of the points made.

Firstly, is it ‘better’ to fight back or is it ‘better’ to comply? My take on this is the same as my take on any self defence related question along the same lines, and that is ‘it depends’. There are never black and white answers to dealing with violence. Anyone who says there are is someone who is misinformed or has an agenda. Violence is not clean, it is not precise, subtle, or rule-bound. It is a million shades of grey, often chaotic, usually scary as hell and has many aspects to it which are influenced by any of thousands of variables. It annoys me when I hear people (often arm-chair critics) saying ‘he should have done this’ or ‘you should have done that’ as there is simply no such thing. People who offer this type of ‘advice’ are usually worth ignoring.

The fact is, NOBODY can say for sure what they would do in one of these situations. We can hypothesize, and we can train to prepare ourselves as much as we can so we will know how we will ‘probably’ react, but no-one ever knows for sure until you are actually put in that situation.

While it is true that sometimes people who comply with robbers’ demands are still hurt or even killed that does not render this a flawed strategy. It is still the safest strategy against an armed offender in ‘most’ situations. Are there exceptions to this ‘rule’? Yes, of course there are. But that does not mean a knee jerk reaction should be adopted because a couple of compliant victims of these robberies were still injured/killed. The fact is that most are not.

One thing I am certain of is that if we adopt the (dangerous) belief that it is ‘always’ better to fight off an armed robber/robbers, as was being suggested by several people on the program, then we are going to be faced with a lot more injuries and deaths in these cases than we have seen so far. In fact, they will become commonplace.

One question I have is why have the vast majority of these shop-keepers not received training for dealing with armed robberies and/or self defence training? This is clearly a serious, growing issue and one that is held at the forefront of many of these shop-keepers’ minds. So perhaps it is time to get some training to learn how to deal with these situations if they should arise. I asked the owner at my local dairy this morning about this and if he was concerned about it. He told me he is very concerned and that he is on edge every day while he waits for what he believes is inevitable, that his store will be robbed. I asked him why, if he is so worried about this, that he has not received any training on it. He said it was too expensive and he can’t get time away to do it. Now I am not pushing our training here, but our armed robbery course is not expensive and are anywhere from 4 hours to a day long. Neither are the others run by other organisations out there. And certainly not when compared to the uninsured loss of cash from even one armed robbery, completely forgetting about all of the other factors for a moment. This needs to change. There is a genuine threat to these people’s safety and yet there seems to be a barrier in the way stopping them from getting training to help them deal with it both physically, emotionally, mentally, legally, and ethically.

I wondered to myself, upon watching the video footage of a shopkeeper armed with a machete running after a robber who was armed with a knife; “what would he do if he caught up to him?” what if the robber stopped, turned around and confronted him? What if the robber tripped and the shop-keeper, fuelled by adrenaline, fear and anger, with a loss of fine motor skills and complex and rational thought processes, found himself suddenly standing over the robber armed with his machete, what would he do? You see, as we sit here reading this blog in a positive state of mind, without the effects of extreme fear and anger (the two most predominant emotions in these situations), without all of the effects of the Adrenal Conditioned Stress Response, without all of the thousands of variables which can occur and lead you to misinterpret actions and situations, without the emotional momentum caused by the situation, among many other things, we can probably say just what ‘we would do in this situation’. But that is not how these situations unfold. The shop-keeper will have all of the effects listed above and a lot more. With no rational thought processes present and fear and anger in the driver’s seat the consequences could be disastrous. He could be injured/killed or could injure/kill the offender un-necessarily.

One of the issues raised on the programme was around a person who did ‘defend himself’ and was prosecuted for his actions resulting in people crying foul about it and going on about how the justice system is so flawed. Now I don’t know the full case here so I am writing based solely on what was said, which may be incomplete, but the situation here is probably pretty straight forward. The Self Defence law in NZ is pretty simple really:

Section 48 of the Crimes Act 1961 - Self-defence and defence of another - Everyone is justified in using, in the defence of himself or another, such force as, in the circumstances as he believes them to be, it is reasonable to use.

The key word in there: ‘Reasonable’. Reasonable force. Section 48 does not provide immunity from prosecution for using self-defence. Unless the circumstances clearly show the force used was appropriate and in self-defence, meaning that it was reasonable, justifiable, and proportionate, the person who has used the force may have to explain their justification to a criminal court. If it is found that the actions of the ‘defender’ were not reasonable, justifiable, and/or proportionate then that person may find themselves up on charges.

The law is designed to protect people, not punish them for protecting themselves when it was reasonable to do so. Generally this means that a person who is prosecuted for ‘protecting themselves’ has gone too far. If they hadn’t, they wouldn’t be prosecuted (all other things being equal). But how far is too far? And what causes an otherwise placid person to smack a robber over the head with a hammer when they were already fleeing, or strike them with the machete when they were already on the ground and looking to get away? Lack of any training for one thing. Under pressure we can do things that we would otherwise never think we were capable of, there is a reason for that but I will explain in another blog to keep this from being 10,000 words. You only need to look at the psychological dynamics of ‘crimes of passion’. In most cases the person who just stabbed their spouse to death, 10 minutes before the incident would never have thought they could ever do such a thing, and 10 minutes after it they would do anything to take back what they have done. Why? Because 10 minutes before and 10 minutes afterwards (for example) they are thinking rationally, whereas in the heat of the moment, that part of the brain is shut down and doesn’t have access to the right ‘files’ if they have never been trained for it.

Training (correct training) bridges these gaps. It helps to fill the brain with files which will work for the person, not against them in these situations. It lets them make a conscious decision on whether to physically hurt the person, not an unconscious one which could result in disastrous consequences.

And putting the ‘fighting back’ question aside, if we simply look at basic skills for dealing with Armed Robbery, these are absolutely vital to ensuring the best outcome possible given the situation. If compliance is the best option, it is important to know HOW to comply. Understanding tactical body language, eye contact, use of voice, information capture (for police response), the reactions of someone on methamphetamine, dealing with evidence, dealing with customers, making the store safe while police get there, even how to call for help (there is more to this than meets the eye), along with a lot of other things are all vital skills to ensure the shop-keepers/their families/staff/customers/Police’s safety in an event like this. Something as seemingly small as understanding how to ‘hand over the cash’ can be the difference between life and death if you have not been trained on how to do it.

Training is not going to stop these events from happening, the problem is much bigger than any one incident in any one dairy obviously, but it can go a long way towards helping the shop-keeper make informed decisions under pressure on how best to deal with the situation to ensure the best possible outcome in a very horrible situation.

I say again, there is no right or wrong in these situations, there is no “he should have done this”, it is just about having an understanding of the dynamics of these situations and having the right training to help deal with them. Is it better to fight them off or just to comply? Good question. The answer; It depends. The best thing that these people can do for themselves is to be as prepared as possible.

Protect opens Wellington classes!

Athena and I are very pleased to announce a new member to the Protect team, Darcy Mellsop.

Darcy has been appointed as the Protect instructor for the Wellington region after a very long induction and training program. Darcy is enthusiastic, passionate and honest in his approach to helping empower people through self defence and it is our pleasure to welcome him to the team.

Darcy is in the process of confirming a venue for group classes to run from so watch this space! As soon as details are confirmed we will let you know.

Darcy’s details can be found here.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Facebook Predators

Below is an article by Lori Getz regarding Facebook Predators:

Ashleigh Hall, 17, was raped and murdered by a 33-year-old man she met on Facebook who was posing as a teenager. How does this happen?

Who is Peter Cartwright? Is he a 19-year-old Facebook hottie, or a 33-year-old registered sex offender? The answer became clear after the man behind the pseudo-identity, Peter Chapman, raped and murdered 17-year-old Ashleigh Hall in the fall of last year. He was found guilty on Monday and sentenced to 35 years in prison.

Ashleigh and Peter met on Facebook and quickly became friendly, exchanging notes on their walls. They even sent text messages to each other. Peter was posing as an attractive 19-year-old, using a photo of a bare-chested young man as his profile picture.
Within a month, Peter had convinced Ashleigh to agree to a face-to-face meeting, telling her his father would be picking her up for the weekend rendezvous. Ashleigh’s body was found the following Monday.

How does this happen? How do good kids fall prey to such horror? What is Facebook’s responsibility? What is our responsibility as parents?

First, it happens more often than we want to think. It doesn’t always end as tragically, but our kids are enamored with being “famo,” or Internet-famous. The more friends they have online, the more popular they seem to think they are. But this just isn’t so. The truth is, the more online friends they have, the bigger the target on their back.

Good kids fall prey to predators for a couple of reasons:

1) They are trusting! They have a hard time believing anyone would want to do them harm.

2) Predators are smart and patient! They find “good victims” and wait patiently to cultivate a relationship that is built on a false sense of trust and loyalty. A predator will become your child’s best friend, significant other, parent or mentor. They will be whatever the victim needs them to be in order to gain their trust.
What makes a “good victim?”

A “good victim,” in the eyes of a predator, is someone who is seeking attention. When predators see sexy or provocative profile pictures on Facebook, they are drawn to the users because they see them as attention seekers. And remember, predators are very good at giving victims all the attention in the world. Also, kids who are willing to friend just about anyone online are also seen as “good victims,” because, again, they display attention-seeking behavior. Finally, when a user posts status updates about hating his/her parents or school, this gives the predator an opening to connect with the victim.

Is Facebook responsible?
Yes and no. Facebook, in my opinion, has a responsibility to act when lascivious or questionable behavior is brought to their attention. In the past, Facebook has removed known registered sex offenders from the site. The company encourages users to report any type of abuse that occurs within their site. Users can report everything from cyberbullying to potential predators. But the USERS need to know to do this.
Facebook’s warning about dangerous predators is buried deep within the help menu under “Safety.” But it is there. The warning talks about how people can pretend to be anyone they want, and therefore it is in the users’ best interest to proceed with caution when friending strangers.

Increasing age requirements or attempting to block older and younger users is NOT going to solve these types of problems. As of now, Facebook requires that a user be 13 — but I know plenty of 10-year-olds who have accounts (and their parents know about it). The kids just lie, and Facebook has no way of verifying such information (especially if the parents are in on the deception).

That’s where we come in as parents. What is our responsibility?
To be active and involved parents in our children’s online world — the SAME way we are active and involved parents in their physical world. Education is the ONLY option here. Social networking has its pitfalls, but it also has incredible value when used appropriately. Staying connected with friends, marketing a new business, exchanging photos with family members across the world — these are all positive things.

But we need to start talking to our kids about the fact that these communities have the same rules that our personal communities have. Keep personal information private, respect one another and do not involve ourselves with total strangers or invite them into our lives.

Lori Getz
Lori Getz is the founder of Cyber Education Consultants and speaks to students, parents and educators about Internet safety, security and ethics. She has a Master of Arts in Educational Technology from San Diego State University and is certified by as an Internet Safety Specialist. Her mission is to help bridge the gap between a young generation of digital natives and their parents and teachers. She is the mother of one and lives in Los Angeles with her husband

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Child sexual predators 'sick'?

Below is part of a Facebook conversation between Richard Dimitri (founder of Senshido), Ryan Sainsbury (senior Protect student), Craig Walsh (briefly - Senshido affiliate UK) and myself. I thought I would copy it here as I think it raises some interesting points of view around child sexual predators...

Richard Dimitri - Senshido International: "Despite Facebook's attempts to safeguard its users from sexual predators, tens of thousands of registered sex offenders have been able to slip through the cracks in security. Those with CHILDREN please, make certain you set your privacy settings accodingly especially when it comes to your children's profiles and pictures shared."

Craig Welsh
"dirty bastards.."

Richard Dimitri
"Most yes, some are actually sick, realize, feel horrible for what they do, how they feel and even ask to be medically impaired from it or incarcerated. Nothing is ever cut and dry or black and white brother... the human being is much to complex a creature to be categorized under any label our intellectual mind can come with."

Phil Thompson
"Sorry Bro, I'm with Craig. Regardless of the human condition, to label all child sex offenders as 'sick' is a way that people can pigeon-hole the issue and use that as an excuse for the truth, and that is what most people do (not what you were doing I know, you said 'some'). And the truth is that they are cruel and in many instances, evil. 'Sometimes' they are 'sick', that is, they have a mental illness. 'Some' do ask for help, and good for them. Most are not sick and most do not ask for help. And the majority of the time, outside of their sexual practices they appear as normal as everyone else. 'Some' of them have a sexual attraction to kids, the vast majority are attracted to the power, manipulation, dominance and control that they can act out on the 'easiest' of targets, young kids.
It is wrong in every context, damaging in ways most people cannot even begin to comprehend, and absolutely needs to be called what it is: Cruel, horrific, and evil. Stage 1 of any problem we need to fix: Accept it and label it correctly...
My two Kiwi cents... Love ya fella"

Richard Dimitri
"I fully agree bro... no argument there at all, most are indeed sociopathic, however, there are some that are clinically and medically 'sick' and realize it and also abhor what they are... and even though they appear to normally function in everyday society doesn't take away the fact that a small percentage do actually have a mental condition, much like some drug addicts that manage to hide their addictions for years to both their friends and families as well as social networks. I'm not saying the law should ease up, I'm just saying that on a humane level, to simply throw a blanket statement isn't fair to the minority and is to a certain degree, a judgement... that's all :`)"

Phil Thompson
"Yeah, I understand bro. I have such conflicting emotions around this. On one hand I know that when we judge someone we don't define them, we just define ourselves as someone who needs to judge. I get that and I work hard on it every day, you constantly inspire me towards that. On the other hand where is the line drawn? I think our judgements are necessary to form our opinions, which are often ego fuelled I know, but sometimes necessary. I mean without them we would condone every act of violence and cruelty in the world and simply accept it as 'it is what it is'. I think my personal direction on this is that I will aim not to judge anyone as best I can for the way they act, how they live their lives, who they are etc until such time as their behaviour adversely affect other people or brings harm to any other person or creature. That is the point where I am happy to make judgements and form strong opinions on someone and take the appropriate action. Otherwise I think tolerance becomes weakness and even denial, which does not serve humanity or the world at all. In the case of child sex offenders, yes I appreciate that some of them are mentally sick. But most are not. It is just an easy lable that most bestow upon predators because it makes it easier to understand and accept. And to look at the issue with empathy or sympathy because the offender 'might' be sick is not giving it the weight it deserves. Personally I will choose to look upon every child sex offender as being cruel and evil. If through the process of law and order (for the countries which actually have it) it is determined that the person is 'mentally sick' then my opinion on the person may change, but my opinion on the crime never will...I think before society starts to worry about whether a child predator has a mental illness before they draw an opinion, society needs to wake up to the fact that we have an enormous problem, accept that these things are happening out there to our kids, silence the voice of denial that goes on for so many, and bring this issue into the mainstream so it can be reduced. Once that is done, then we can start categorising the predators and ensuring their treatment or punishment fits their own circumstances. Right now, we are a long way off..."

Ryan Sainsbury

"Y'all seem to be looking at this somewhat differently from myself, so I'm going to pitch in here.

Personally, I don't care if or why a person is attracted to children. Are they sick in the head? Fine. Do they have an innate sexual preference for children? Okay. Do they have a cruel attraction to power and dominance, and prefer the thought of enacting that upon children? I, for one, would submit that this is merely another form of sickness.

Point is, what leads them to the point of wanting to do these things to children is utterly disinteresting to me. If one of them wants help, for any of these situations, I'm all for giving it to them. If they decide to spend their lives bottling their desires up in a vortex of self-loathing and despair, then that's cool too.

Myself, I see the important distinction as being between 'person who wants to have sex with children' and someone who acts upon those desires. As far as I'm concerned, your ultimate fantasy can revolve around an orgy in the goddamn maternity ward, but the moment you actually touch a child for gratification, that is the point in time that I break out a big heaping bowl of judgment and start ladling it out.

Rich, you made the distinction between people who are clinically 'sick', and those who are sociopathic. I suggest that these are two sides of the same coin. And in the end, it makes very little difference, because both are capable of controlling their actions - the difference from one to another rests not in discerning in which particular way they specifically are fucked in the head, but whether they decided to resist the urge or not.

The sole exception to this is people who are clinically psychotic, and this is so insanely rare (there are very few true psychotics, and most of their blackouts end with people injured and dead, not molested) and difficult to prove that it's hardly worth mentioning. Did a quick search, and could not find a single case where this defence was even argued.

I'm not sure why we're placing such a large emphasis on why they're attracted to children. It seems entirely academic, because in the end the practical result is the same. Ultimately, anyone who wants to have sex with children wants to have sex with children, and the question seems not to be "why do you want to" so much as "did you resist the temptation to do so?"

In the end, that's the only question the child's really going to care about."

Phil Thompson
"Ryan, good points fella. I have the same thoughts on some of what you say and different thoughts on other points you have made. Particularly your point about fantasies.

Fantasies are thoughts and thoughts equal outcomes. The missing piece in the middle is... Action. If a person with child sex fantasies goes their whole life without ever doing anything about them then I agree with you. People will have their own judgements about this but at the end of the day nobody is hurt. But as soon as that person starts to take ACTION against any of their fantasies then there is an escalating problem.

Rich’s original post referred to child predators (in fact registered sex offenders) using Facebook as a means to exploit kids. That is a serious issue. It means that they have taken action against those fantasies. They are no longer harmless. In the same way that child pornography is not harmless. An argument I have heard there is that as long as the person ‘just looks but never touches’ it is harmless. That is not so. For every photo or video of child pornography there is a victim. The innocent child on the tape or in the photo is a traumatised victim and the person viewing it for their own pleasure or to satisfy their fantasy IS guilty of the crime. They have acted upon their fantasy.

That same person who views child pornography, or hunts through Facebook looking for children, left alone with a child and to their own devices would likely abuse that child in some way. Not necessarily in all cases I know, but the probability is high. Therefore the only difference between the fantasy – once any form of action has been taken against it - and the reality is opportunity.

Therefore our responsibility is to work towards removing the opportunity for sexual predators and increasing online security in just one avenue to do that. If all we worry about is “Did you resist the urge or not” and forget the “Why and how do you carry out crimes against kids” then we will always be the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff. The biggest part of our job in this area is prevention. And knowing the ‘enemy’ is important so that we can implement preventative strategies to keep kids safe.

You stated: “Do they have a cruel attraction to power and dominance, and prefer the thought of enacting that upon children? I, for one, would submit that this is merely another form of sickness.” This I do not agree with in this context. My reference to this was in the context of people using ‘he is sick’ as an excuse for his actions. By that logic then every act of murder, cruelty, torture, manipulation, control, emotional or physical aggression is a form of ‘sickness’ and there are no evil people in the world. I don’t believe this is the case. There are some truly evil people out there. There are a hell of a lot more loving, caring, great people, but there are the bad ones too. And my point here is to call it what it is. An act of sexual violence against a child is evil. Regardless of where it came from, the act itself is evil. Now as Rich points out, there are ‘some’ cases where the person has a genuine mental illness and I accept that but once the crime has definitely been committed against the child this is a case where I think ‘guilty until proven innocent’ is relevant when it comes to proving mental illness as an excuse.

Loving the conversation and debate here, awesome."

Ryan Sainsbury

"Hey Phil, you've made some pretty good observations mate.

To be honest, when I wrote that, I'd more or less forgotten about Rich's opening post, and had started focusing on the whole judgment/difference between a 'paedophile' and a 'child molestor' part. In relation to his initial point, could not agree more with him (except perhaps the part about "Facebook's attempts to safeguard its users" - I like Facebook, but their safeguards are pretty pathetic and they really don't have any serious interest in maintaining privacy). Any movement to make children safer from online predators is something I can get behind - have gotten behind - and I've got no argument with you there.

I should have clarified that I do include viewing child pornography in the category of 'acting on those desires', on account of the fact that that pornography has to come from somewhere, and in acquiring it they support and encourage the creation of it.

As for the part about sickness, I think we're both using the same term to mean two different things. I gather that when you say it, you mean 'sick' in the sense of something which renders a person irresponsible for their actions, on account of the concept that they 'can't be held responsible' - as a result of some form of mental health issue wherein they genuinely don't realize that what they're doing is wrong, or literally lack the capacity to stop themselves. Of course, someone who just enjoys inflicting pain does not fall into this category.

When I use the term 'sick', I'm referring more generally to 'someone who has desires that just aren't right'. Be this a desire to have sex with children, or a desire to cause suffering, or a desire to feel power over other human beings - I see them all very much as sides of the same coin. The main difference between our use of the terms seems to be that your usage of 'sick' refers to people whose actions are (for lack of a better term - this doesn't really convey what I'm trying to say, but it's the best I can think of) excused by their affliction. My use is more in line with merely explaining how someone came to have those desires, and isn't in any way mitigating their responsibility. When I say 'sick', I'm only referring to sick desires - not a literal inability to control them. That's something quite else.

To summarize that ridiculously long-winded definition of mine - when I say 'sick', I'm talking about anybody who wants to do terrible things, not somebody who *literally* cannot stop themselves, or lacks comprehension of what they're doing. So, in the context in which you were using the term, I agree wholeheartedly.

"An act of sexual violence against a child is evil."

I think this is the ultimate crux of the discussion, and I don't think anybody's arguing with you. There exist cases where mental illness plays a genuine role, but they are rare and are far more likely to be used as an excuse than they are to be a genuine reality.

...I think I could have summarized my entire statement by saying "ya i agree lol"."

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The future wants to be bright...

Today I spent 3 hours working with an amazing group of young women (and one young man) at an Auckland Senior High School.

The event was sponsored by our (Protect’s) Community Support Program and was arranged and co-ordinated by three year 12 students as part of an assessed project.

It always amazes me when I have the chance to work with people at this age just how keen they are for the information that we provide. The group I had the privilege to work with today were positive, open and receptive, asked relevant, well structured, and direct questions and clearly wanted to help themselves and others with the information from the course.

So often I hear people talking about how the world is such a violent place and only getting worse and how – basically - we are all damned to a future of fear and violence. But I don’t see it that way at all - it is the mission of our organisation to help ensure that is not the case – but where I have hope is in the younger generation that is coming through right now. People like those I worked with today. These are genuinely good and caring people, who are really passionate about making a difference and they are armed with knowledge and technology advances that older generations never were, these people really will make a positive difference in the future, I truly believe that.

Our responsibility (the generations currently running the place) though is to make sure they get that chance. It is to protect them by giving them the relevant life skills – self defence and empowerment skills in our case – to ensure they get through their youth empowered, confident and free from unnecessary worry and fear which they are constantly bombarded with. We need to do everything we can to get them through un-scathed so that they will be in a position to make the required changes.

From what I see at every school and learning institution that I work with is that these young people do want to “be the change that they want to see in the world”. The most common response I get after a course (today included) is students asking how they can help by spreading the information. They want to help. They want to make the world better. Our job is to make sure they have that chance. It is to protect them from the damaging effects caused by bullying, intimidation, sexual assault, general violence and self destructive behaviour often borne from damage to their self-esteem and confidence from experiencing these things. If we can do that, the future is looking a lot brighter.

The alternative is to buy into the myth of powerlessness. To keep avoiding the problem, passing it over and not standing up and taking responsibility and accepting that we CAN change things right now. We have the information. We have the resources to do this. All that is needed is the will and the understanding of the true benefits of this information.

Apathy and denial are the enemy of improvement and positive evolution of thought and results, yet they are prevalent attitudes around this subject. We as a society have a problem called violence. It takes on many forms. And it will never fully go away. But we have the information right now that we can deliver to our kids and young adults which can help them tremendously – skills to protect themselves physically where needed, to diffuse and de-escalate violent situations, resolve conflict at its earliest point, increase confidence, build empowerment, deal with their strong emotions and ego related behaviours - and it is mostly being kept out of their hands. This needs to change. These people should not only have access to this information when a few pro-active and responsible students or teachers organise a class, it should be available to them all.

Now before I receive emails telling me that I have a utopian view on this and that I should visit a school in “my hard area” and see what "they are like there", I have worked with schools in every type of area, of every decile rating including schools for the behaviourally challenged. I know there are some bad apples out there. Of course there are. The vast majority of our young people are really, really good people. The few who are not can be very, very bad. I have met many of these people and there is no point glossing over it or tiptoeing around it, some of them are real bad news. But they are the vast minority, not the majority as we are often led to believe. Part of what we do is give young people – the ‘good ones’ who want to be helped – the skills to keep themselves empowered and safe from harm. There will always be violence is our society. There always has been and there always will be, it is inherent in our species, but it is important to keep it in perspective, it is still the minority and we have to keep focusing on reducing it wherever possible and giving our next generations the skills to deal with it so they can move ahead in life.

As I mentioned to the team I worked with today, I truly believe that if our education was compulsory in every high school and college in the country violence in future generations would be massively reduced and some forms of it almost eliminated. This needs to happen and it is something that we will continue to work towards.

I am grateful to the students I worked with today. Every time I teach I learn something and meeting these people today strengthened my belief that our society’s future is going to be in good shape. We just need to help get them there...

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Part 2: Assault on 4 year old boy for wearing 'gang colours'!

Well, my last post has resulted in a few interesting emails and I really wanted to touch on one more point that one of our senior students, Brendan, bought up.

Several people’s responses have questioned the actions of the boy’s father. What did he do about the situation? Why didn’t he “beat the s**t out of him” was one comment.

There are so many angles to this that this would be a never-ending blog topic if I even tried to go into them all. As we have always said, and the principle that our entire training structure is built upon, is there is no ‘black-and-white’ answer to violence or to self defence. None of us could ever say what we ‘would have done’ - and therefore what anyone else ‘should have done’ – in any situation unless we were actually there.

Perhaps the whole event was over before the boy’s father was even aware of it, and when he was made aware of it maybe his focus was on taking care of his child rather than taking the law into his own hands.

Maybe he was considering the future safety of his son, himself and his family. It’s so easy for armchair critics to say that he should have ‘bashed the guy’, but what about the fact that this is a gang member, in a gang run area, where the father has to live with his family. Do these people really believe that there would be no retaliation against him and potentially his family if he had decided to respond physically? Get into the real world people. I have no idea what the boy’s father’s options were as I only know what has been reported, but if he did have the option to confront the offender - after the event was already over and his boy was now safe and in need of support – and chose not to and to instead take care of his boy then I have absolute respect for his decision. That to me is perfect ‘self defence’.

This is not the Wild West, it is not about ‘defending your honour’ or appearing ‘yellow’, it is about making rational decisions which will ensure your safety and well being. Based on my understanding of the event, that is what the boy’s father did and it is not always easy to do in high pressure situations.

A common opinion seems to be that the boy’s dad should have physically assaulted the offender. Did he deserve it? You know the answer to that. But would it have been right to do it at this point? Would it have been right to lower himself to the same level as the criminal? What would that have solved? Would it really have ‘taught him a lesson’? Of course not. These guys live their lives around violence, if you think that would have deterred him from committing other acts of violence in the future you are very mistaken, if anything it would only strengthen the violent tendencies.

Let’s look at a few potential outcomes if he had decided to confront the offender. Let’s keep in mind that the event was already over and his son was safe at the point when he had to make this decision. It would have been a different story if he was there right in the middle of it and needed to protect his son as he would not have known where the situation could have escalated to, in which case an intervention would have likely been required and justified, but that is not the case here. The event was over, nothing could change the fact that it had happened and now a decision needed to be made as to what action to take and he chose to take care of his frightened son.

What if, instead of receiving the urgently needed support and caring of his dad while he was frightened and upset, the 4 year old boy (an age where children are HIGHLY influenced by violent imagery and events) was left alone while his dad confronted his attacker. The little boy is now even more afraid, afraid that he is alone, afraid for his dad, afraid of what is unfolding right before his eyes, and every second that goes by is affecting him more and more.

And then we look at two of the possible outcomes of the situation; The first is that the dad – who some people seem to assume should be a mix of the talents of David Tua, Bruce Lee, and John Rambo rather than a normal everyday dad who probably would rather not confront a violent gang member at risk of his safety and the safety of his family – is hurt in front of his child. Even if we sideline the impact on Dad himself and just look at the impact on the little boy, after what he has just been through himself he now gets to watch his dad beaten, or stabbed, or having his head stomped on, when the other option was to simply let it go and let the law deal with it.

The second option is that dad did ‘give the guy the bash’. All other factors aside such as the legal repercussions, retaliation against him and his family, emotional and/or physical trauma, let’s just look at what dad has just taught his little boy. Violent visual imagery influences and affects all children and the younger they are the more susceptible they are to it. Witnessing an actual event is many times greater than witnessing it on TV or other media, but witnessing it done by your role model and a person who is responsible for moulding your values and beliefs is going to be disastrous and maybe even irreversible. Dad would have just shown his son that violence is ok. That letting raw emotion guide your decisions - consequences be damned - is the way to go.

And the consequences of that little boy growing up with those beliefs? Well, you already know what they are and where they could lead.

Gaining control of our own natural (and normal) responses to fear and anger, under extreme stress situations is one of the most important aspects to self defence and in my opinion - based on my understanding of how the situation unfolded - the boy’s dad did that and should be praised for his actions not criticised for them.

Assault on 4 year old boy for wearing 'gang colours'!

Yesterday a 4 year old boy was playing in a park in Whakatane when a male approached him while his father’s back was turned, poked him in the chest, yelled at him and threatened him to remove the red shirt he was innocently wearing. The man then forcibly removed the shirt before his father could intervene.
The male was wearing gang colours associated with the Black Power gang, known to run the area.

This act is obviously despicable beyond words and I have decided not to make this blog about the act itself, or the scared and traumatised 4 year old boy or his family, or gang intimidation, or governmental policy regarding these issues, although they would all be valid and multi-dimensional topics.

The response from the Black Power gang today is that they will find the guy and ‘give him a good clouting’ which the public seem to be supporting; violence begetting more violence and the cycle continues. The media are widely reporting this angle (of course) and several people I have spoken to have thought it great that the gang is going to take care of the situation. I mean, give me a break!

Is this the point we have come to? A society where the immediate reaction to this situation is to support and condone a violent backlash from other criminals to solve a crime? Criminals policing criminals - great idea that is - let’s put our faith in the morals and ethics of criminal gang members to sort out these issues. I asked two of the people who supported this action by the gangs why they didn’t support letting the police and justice system sort it out. Both of them just laughed.

But what is the message we are sending behind this? I mean don’t get me wrong here; this cowardly and despicable act makes me sick. I want to see the offender punished for his crime too. But what is the message we send as a society when we support a violent response by criminals as the means to solve a problem like this? That the only way to beat violence is with more violence? That we should put the responsibility for justice into the hands of other criminals? Let’s just throw more fire on the fire and not expect it to get hotter? Look at the bigger message, it is a vicious self perpetuating cycle and if we buy into it we become part of the problem. Interesting too that half of the people who support this violence-to-solve-violence response would be the first to scream the roof down if you were to mention capital punishment for murderers, or castration for rapists (I am not endorsing support for either here BTW). So where does the line get drawn?

It is totally normal to feel anger over this crime. It is normal to feel empathy for the child and his family, and for the community as a whole. It is normal to want to see justice bought to the offender. What matters though is which form of justice we decide to support. If we lower ourselves to their level and adopt a “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” (can’t beat violence, so might as well use it) attitude, we are lost, and this guy’s crime will seem like a picnic compared to what our kids will have to face in the future.

One person made the comment to me this morning; “I’m all for zero tolerance policy to violence, I hope the gang find him and knock his teeth out to teach him a lesson”. Do you see what I mean?

Anyway, as always this is just food for thought, if you’re not hungry, don’t eat.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Keeping our kids safe...

Every parent is concerned about the safety of their children. In a society where 1 in 4 girls, and 1 in 8 boys will be sexually assaulted before the age of 16 it is worth getting some education around how to keep them safe.
Yesterday I had a discussion with a parent who asked me what 'moves' (referring to physical self defence) were the best to teach his two young children. I told him they were the least important aspect of personal safety for kids (albeit still important) and asked him if he was teaching them what to look out for so they could identify and avoid potential predators to start with. His reply was along the lines of "No, I just want to teach them what to do if a stranger grabs them. I tell them to stay away from strangers and all that of course".
This is the all-too-common type of response I hear from parents, and was one of the key reasons we developed our 'Guardian Angel' program, so let me challenge a couple of old beliefs here. Obviously this is a broad subject so I will just discuss a couple of key points here today.

The world is changing so rapidly with new technology, new laws and new societal forces that it is a constant challenge for parents and caregivers to teach their children to stay safe from harm.

Our efforts as a society to prevent crimes against children have not been able to keep up with the increasing levels of risk and vulnerability of our children.
The age old mantra of “Stranger Danger” which has become so ingrained in our psyches as the answer to teaching children to be safe is outdated and no longer relevant on its own. We need to move ahead with the times and adapt to the changing world around us if we are to best protect our kids.

So many crimes against children are preventable. In hindsight, so many parent’s of child victims look back and say “If only she’d known what to look for…”, “If only he hadn’t gone with him…”, “If only she’d talked to us about this, we could have caught it before it got out of hand…” etc, etc…

Prevention is about education. And the education must be specific and relevant to our New Zealand society today.

One of the most important aspects to child safety is open and honest communication between yourself and your child. Children who do not feel that they are listened to or understood at home are far more vulnerable to the exploitation of child predators. Remember, the predator is always looking for perceived ‘easy prey’. Low self confidence, low self esteem, low self beliefs, and a feeling of loneliness and isolation are all perfect tools for the child predator to use to their advantage.
This is also why we are such big advocates of martial arts for children. A good martial art instils confidence and positive self-beliefs in the child, automatically making them a “harder target”.

A home environment which makes your child feel confident and comfortable to discuss any matters, including sensitive ones, without fear of judgment or embarrassment is the first step, and one of the most powerful steps, in keeping your child safe.
The sad reality is children are too often afraid, embarrassed or confused to discuss or report their fears, situations and experiences.

As more and more crimes against children are reported by the media, and talked about in our social circles, we are in danger of building a paranoia around keeping our kids safe. This is not the answer either. There is a huge difference between paranoia and awareness. Living in paranoia is no way to live life, and can make us take things to extremes forcing an already rebellious teenager for example, to do just the opposite of what we want.

Awareness is about discussing openly the safety strategies and rules in a positive and reassuring way, as opposed to instilling fear into your child about all of the nasty things that could happen to them if they don’t follow the safety rules.
Kids need to be empowered with positive messages and safety skills that will build their self esteem and self confidence while helping to keep them safer. Kids don’t need to be told the world is a scary place. They watch the news, hear adults talking, and may even experience violence firsthand so they are well aware of that already. Rather, they need to know that their parent or caregiver is there for them if they are in trouble and have it reinforced that most adults they encounter in their lives are generally good people who would not hurt a child.

Part of the process of ensuring that home is always a ‘safe haven’ for your child in addition to open communication, is to absolutely ensure that if you impose a punishment upon your child for misbehaviour, that punishment should never place your child in danger in any way.
We recently read a case file of a young girl who went out for a night with her friends, and arrived home after her curfew time. As this was not the first time she had done it, her mother decided to teach her a lesson and lock her out of the house. Too afraid of her mother’s wrath to knock on the door, she headed for a friend's house. A man approached her, manipulated her into conversation with him, 'sympathetically' listened to her situation and in doing so gained her trust…
He then abducted her, repeatedly raped, and murdered her.
The actions of her mother, fed up and looking to send a clear message to her daughter by denying her the safety and refuge of her own home, indirectly resulted in her death. A punishment should never place a child in danger.

So what about “Stranger Danger”? We’ve all grown up with it. We’ve all been told to “Stay away from strangers”. And this message/concept may have served us well, but it is now redundant and needs updating urgently.
This is a big call.
The unfortunate reality is most cases of child abduction/exploitation (well over 80%)are committed by someone known to the child, and maybe not known to the parent. The offender does not fit the “Stranger” role so therefore the child’s awareness/guard is down.
Often a child predator will make seemingly innocent contact with the child. They use subtle tactics and manipulation to gain the confidence of their victim, befriend them and lower their guard, again removing the “Stranger” label.
It is important that children and parents understand the types of situations, tactics, and approaches used by these people.

It is far more important to teach children to be aware of certain types of situations than certain types of people. That is the concept at the core of 'Guardian Angel'.

When describing the “Stranger Danger” concept to children, parents often promote visions of “dodgy”, “sleazy”, “dirty” looking men. This typecast labelling is very dangerous. Many times the predator does not fit any of these profiles. They are the everyday “normal” looking person, the neighbour, the teacher, the friend’s parent. Typecasting dangerous people promotes a narrow view and leaves the child open to all of the unexpected possibilities. It is the situation or action that the child should be aware of, regardless of who the person is. Besides, as adults we have the benefit of experience and honed decision making skills that we have acquired over our lifetime to identify dangerous people, and we still often get it wrong. So how do we expect our kids to be able to identify “bad” people when we can’t even do it?

Also keep in mind that if your child needs help, the “never talk to strangers” message in isolation effectively eliminates a key source of help for your child if they are in trouble. They just need to know who to get help from if they need it.
Parents and children need to know what the common approaches of a child predator are. For example, an adult pulling over their car to ask the child for help with directions, lost puppy, etc. Adults should not have to ask kids for help. Kids can ask kids for help. Adults should ask adults for help.

As our children are bought up to be polite, to respect their elders and obey the orders of adults, it is important to let them know that in these situations it is ok to say “no” to an adult. Their personal safety is always more important than being polite.

All common situations, setups, manipulations should be discussed with your child in a positive, clear, calm and reassuring way. This is far more important and effective than teaching them to look out for a particular image or profile of a “Stranger”.
Kids should view safety strategies as positive, and even fun (in a serious way). They don’t need to be frightened into thinking the world is a big scary place full of people who want to hurt them, they get enough of that from the media every day. They need to know that they have you there whenever they need you, and that most adults they encounter are good people, the safety rules are there just in case…

Here are a few things you can do to help prevent possible exploitation or abduction situations:

- Teach your children to recognise potentially dangerous situations and teach them that it is ok to say “no” to an adult.

- There really is more safety in numbers. Teach your child to always go places with a friend if possible. This is a major, key point.

- Teach them to know the difference between “good touches” and “Bad touches”. Any touch in a place where a bathing suit would normally cover is a bad touch, as are any which make them feel frightened, confused, uneasy, uncomfortable or “funny”. They should know it is ok to say no and to tell you immediately if someone does try to touch them in this way.

- Checking first with you before going anywhere, or doing anything new should be promoted as a healthy and positive part of your household routine with your child. This is a major point and can not be emphasized enough. The way you promote this concept to your child to ensure they “buy in” to it is vital, they need to see that it is always in their best interests and they have your full support.

- Know your child’s friends, and their parents, and have up-to-date contact lists for them all. Knowing where your children are and who they are with is important. Through open communication this can be done without seeming “controlling” or “invasive”.

- Be aware of anyone who is giving inappropriate or expensive gifts to your child, or paying them an unusual amount of attention.

- Pay attention to changes in your child’s behaviour and be prepared to sit down and discuss what the issues are with them when they occur. These are often a call for help and should be treated sensitively but seriously.

- Be empathetic and supportive to your child’s worries and fears, listen to them carefully and help guide them to find a solution together.

- Teach your children to trust their intuition and feelings and let them know that if it feels wrong it definitely is and they have the right to say no.

- Be diligent of anyone who is in a position of care for your child. Babysitters, sports coaches, tutors etc. References from people you trust are a great place to start. Be extra diligent if the situation requires that your child be left alone with the individual in privacy.

Obviously I have only covered a few of the key points on child safety in this article. There is a lot more to it, but these points are a good start and something worth thinking about.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

What most people don't see...

I consider myself a very fortunate person. I have a job that I love which positively influences people’s lives and every day I get to meet amazing people at seminars and courses throughout the country.

Additionally, every week Athena and I get to train with a cool bunch of people who share the same ideals, are positive, non-judgemental and supportive, (and definitely a little wacky) at our group class in Auckland. We get to share stories, discussions, and a lot of laughs while we train.

The other night one of our team members was telling us about an event that had happened to him that same day. To most people it would have sounded inconsequential, but to us it was brilliant.

He shared how he had been driving his car and someone cut him off and pulled in front of him. He said he had almost been hit so got a “hell of a fright”. This was the first point to his story. He said that a year ago (before he started training) if someone had done that to him he would have been sitting on the horn with one hand and giving the bird with the other while yelling abuse at the person (daily occurrence on our roads). Instead, he realised he was safe and instead of hurling abuse at the person he just shrugged his shoulders and said and did nothing (except some tactical breathing). The driver of the other car, knowing he had done wrong and looking to now save face ensured that as they approached the traffic lights positioned himself in the lane next to him and wound down his window and said something along the lines of “what the F*** is your problem?!”. This was his second point, instead of letting his ego take charge and reacting with aggression, he calmly and in a firm but friendly tone said “Nothing, I was just wondering why you would do that, that’s all.” The polar opposite of what the other guy expected of course. His response? He nodded his head in acknowledgement and wound up his window without saying anything. He was left in a position where he could ‘save face’ while at the same time having no further reason to escalate it further. Perfect diffusion and exactly what we train for.

Like I said, to anyone else that may seem like nothing special, but what it displays is a person who has taken control of their ego, their reactionary emotions and who has trained himself to stay calmer and in control of an unexpected and uncomfortable situation (unfortunately, given the amount of road rage on our roads every day, most people do not have these skills).

And THAT, to us, is real self defence in action. Brilliant.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Hindsight: 20/20

A little while ago a few of our members and I were having a discussion about some of the recent salient violent events occurring around New Zealand. We watch these events closely as they give great insight into current trends and behavioural psychology as it relates to violence. The discussion found its way to the topic of Mr Singh, the Manurewa liquor store owner murdered in 2008 as part of an Armed Holdup. I was asked by a martial artist who was attending our group class what I would have done if I were the person in the liquor store. In other words, if I was Mr Singh.

My reply to him was along the lines of; "Well he was shot in the chest at close range so I probably would have died. Why do you ask?" This was clearly not the response he expected and he immediately retorted with "well, that's a great attitude from a self defence teacher!"

I asked him why he felt that way and he went on to explain how his (martial arts) instructor had told the class exactly what he would have done in the situation to not only not get shot, but to physically harm the three robbers, one of whom was armed with a gun (which incidentally involved jumping the counter in front of the gunman and kicking him in the throat etc *Sigh*). I find this attitude incredible. Actually, I find it blatantly ignorant.

No-one can say how they absolutely would react in that situation. We can theorise about it, but there is no way we can say with certainty what we "would" have done. There is never any black and white answer to violence. Ever.

It reminded me of what Rich Dimitri told me about a magazine which called him up after 9/11 to ask him what he would have done if he had been on the plane when the highjackers took it over. Several other self defence 'experts' had told the magazine how they would have dealt to the highjackers and resumed control of the plane saving the day, whereas Rich's reply was "I would have died of course". His reply was not published.

Certainly there is merit in analysing the situation and what occurred retrospectively to help create 'mental blueprints' and provide greater understanding of how these situations unfold and occur, and also to adapt our training to suit and give greater chance of adapting to the specific scenario, but we will never 'fully' bridge the gap between how we think it may happen and how it really happens, unless...It really happens. There are always too many variables which could occur to try to "run a script". But if your self defence training is reality based it will prepare you as much as possible for this type of event. The 'stress inoculation' training that is a core concept of what we teach at Protect helps you to prepare and to make decisions under pressure which best serve you.

I don't know exactly how the events unfolded in the liquor store, and whether any previous training for this type of situation could have helped Mr Singh, I would like to hope it may have, but one thing I know is that he did the best with the knowledge and preparation that he had and in the end he tragically had his life taken from him and his loved ones.

All we can aim to do with our self defence training is gain as much knowledge and preparation against real world violence as we can so that if the worst happens we are as prepared as possible. Still, we will never be 100% prepared but 90% is better than not prepared at all. If the worst should happen you only have a small gap to bridge and will be far more able to adapt under pressure.

Self defence is not about flashy Hollywood moves and being a hero, it is about staying safe and getting home to your loved ones. That's all. And effective self defence training should reflect that.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Awesome Auckland Charity Event Announced! Women's Personal Safety Seminar!

Hi Everyone,

We have an awesome opportunity for you to learn some great skills and support a great charity at the same time!

As a part of Protect's Community Support Program we regularly run valuable events in support of worthwhile charities and causes.

Below are details of our next Auckland event. It will be an excellent evening event packed with lots of valuable information. We need your help to spread the word please. All of the profits go to RPE and we want to really make this great for them with your help!

So what can you do? Firstly, if you are a woman, register and come along. Secondly, tell everyone you know and get them along too. It is only $25 and will be very worthwhile. To register just go to the Calendar page on our website.

The seminar is raising money for Rape Prevention Education Auckland (Formerly Rape Crisis Auckland) to support them in the excellent work they do. Visit the RPE website at for more information on RPE.

MC'd by 'Dancing With The Stars' celebrity Aaron Gilmore and supported by RPE advocate Louise Nicholas this event will provide women with important information about keeping themselves safe against violence.

Designed by Protect Self Defence's co-founders Athena and Phil Thompson this 2.25 hour information seminar will cover vital information for women including:

- Dispelling many common (and often dangerous) myths around self defence and personal safety for women

- How to identify the common manipulation strategies males (with often sinister intent) used against females (this is very important information!)

- Focusing on empowerment and eliminating paranoia and un-neccessary worry by knowing what to look out for

- The important stages of real self defence

- The psychology of an attacker and how they choose their targets. Knowing this lets you become a 'hard target'

- The biggest lie of them all that most women in NZ have been told, the truth behind it, and how knowing it can create a safer life for you and your family

- And a whole lot more!

Please note this is an information event, there is no physical component or participation required from attendees, just sit back and enjoy the information.

This seminar is exclusive to women. Because of some of the content the minimum age is 16 years unless accompanied by an adult parent or caregiver in which case the minimum age is 14 years.

$25 for this event is incredible value and you are supporting a fantastic organisation (RPE) in addition to the great information you will receive. Numbers for this event are limited so please book quickly.

Thank you for your awesome support, I look forward to seeing you (and all of your friends) there!