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