Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Widen your view - Latest article by Darcy Mellsop

Just over a week ago I provided a self defence presentation as part of a Bunnings Ladies
only night. Before the presentation I was talking to a lady who supplied me
with a pretty simple perspective to self defence: Just punch him in the groin.

I said that self defence is more than physical. To which she replied: Of course, you can just
run. Me: What if you can’t run? Her: Well - just don’t be there.
Me: Is it that simple? There were over 7000 instances of assault and sexual assault
reported to Police in the Wellington region last year, surely not one of those
7000 survivors of those incidents chose to be there, so then, “just not being
there” isn’t that easy is it?

I shared with her Rachel’s story, as I had in this column 6 weeks ago. What does “just
not being there” mean? I put it to her that it can’t be about not going for a
run, not seeing a movie late at night, not meeting new people, and in Rachel’s
case, not dating ever again? Avoidance does require great decision making, but
it isn’t living at home behind a locked door all your life.

Great avoidance is about being able to live a full life knowing that your intuition
is empowered to spark when it detects something that isn’t right. Your
intuition needs to be empowered with information, which is what I shared in my
presentation, I’ve shared with you in earlier columns and will share with you
in future columns. That is self defence.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Knives in schools...

The October 16th edition of the Herald On Sunday (pg 16) featured an article titled ‘Armed in The Classroom”. The front page teaser for the article read “Knives in schools. The statistics that will shock you”

Well, the statistics did not shock me. They didn't even surprise me.

The original article and link to the original is below this blog.

You can read the statistics for yourself and yes, they are not good. They also don't paint an accurate picture of the scale of the problem. I know this because I work with and around violence every day. I have worked in schools ranging from low decile to decile 10. And this problem is a serious one. Of course we could look at the all of the underlying factors here, the issues that cause the violence which is now more and more frequently involving weapons, but I have commented, discussed and written about this before so I want to keep this to the specific subject of weapons in schools.

Last year I was working with a group of year 12 boys in a decile 10 school. The subject of knives came up and I asked them “how many people in here know someone at this school who has bought a knife to school, either yourself or someone else, recently?” There were 27 students in the class, eight raised their hand.

I asked them why they thought “these people” (I knew I was talking directly to some of them) bought weapons to school. The most common answer was ‘Self Defence’. Other answers included “to look tough”, “because they’re marked” etc…

This prompted me to have a very frank and blunt discussion with them about what they ‘thought’ constituted self defence and where knives fall into that equation, the true consequences of the action of carrying a weapon (legal, moral, ethical, emotional, financial, scholarly, career, family), and a look at the real risks associated with this practise vs the perceived gains. The discussion had a profound effect on them with a unanimous agreement that it was a very bad idea. I have worked with students long enough to know when they are saying something simply to placate me and when they genuinely ‘get it’, and this was a situation where they genuinely ‘got it’.

Several of the students made comments along the lines of “nobody has ever made me think of it like that before”, "You (meaning them) just do it because others do it but no-one really makes you think about what could happen” etc…

The HOD for the school, who was sitting in attendance for the session made the comment to me afterwards that this was so valuable because I was able to have a discussion with the kids “that the teachers can’t have and that they don’t get at home from dad”. It had a huge impact on this group and has on several other’s since, but that is just the tip of the iceberg.

One such talk resulted in a student approaching me after the session and handing me a makeshift knife. He told me “Thank you sir, I won’t need this anymore” . That is a big impact.

The issues of teachers being able to search students is one thing, but how about fixing the underlying issues? What our organisation does is only a piece of that puzzle I know, and many schools are doing their best to work on many of the issues, but what we can do is make the kids understand the real consequences. We are in a very unique position to be able to do that. And if they no longer want or feel they need to carry knives or other weapons a big part of the issue is fixed right there. Will we get through to all of them and have them all never carry weapons again? No, of course not. But we can make a huge dent in the numbers who do.

The schools who work with us are progressive and are in many ways pioneers in addressing this issue and the other relevant issues facing their students’ safety. Some others are just plain apathetic and operating in a realm of absolute denial. This issue is real, it is obvious, the signs are there if they care to look, yet when one of their students or teachers is stabbed (again), you can guarantee we’ll hear the same old tune of “there was nothing we could do to prevent it”, or “it came out of the blue” . I am tired of hearing these things. There is plenty that can be done to prevent it and NONE of these incidents (not one) has happened “out of the blue”. Anyone who wishes to debate with me on that, I welcome it.

Anyway, this blog is just me sharing a couple of my many thoughts on this issue but at the end of the day it will be read by those who already know that what we are doing is making massive differences, and is unlikely to be read or taken seriously by anyone in the school system who will take any action. I hope I am wrong about that, I genuinely do, but I doubt that I am.

To end on a brighter note, we recently ran another women’s personal safety course at a decile 10 Auckland College and the results were absolutely outstanding. The feedback has been overwhelming from the staff and the students alike and the difference in the students’ confidence and overall empowerment was incredible. So there are schools who really are making a great difference and it is always an honour to work with them.

Original article here:

Armed in the classroom
By Chloe Johnson 5:30 AM Sunday Oct 9, 2011

Teachers are trying to fathom why an increasing number of kids, some as young as 5, bring weapons to school.

Expand Teachers are allowed to search children for weapons and drugs, but many are nervous of doing this one-on-one. Photo / Janna DixonChildren as young as 5 are among the alarming number of pupils who have been suspended or stood down for having weapons at school.

Figures the Herald on Sunday obtained through the Official Information Act show more than 1000 students have been removed from schools for possessing or using a weapon in the past two years.

At least 700 cases involved knives, blades, hammers, scissors and guns, including replicas.

In one case, a 5-year-old boy was stood down for five days for violent behaviour - brandish-ing a weapon - at teachers and students in the classroom. The type of weapon used has not been disclosed.

Ministry of Education curriculum and performance manager Jeremy Wood refused to name the school to protect the child's identity. However, he said the boy was removed from class after the incident in 2009 and received support from special education services for more than a year.

"He has not received any further stand-downs or suspensions, and no further support is currently needed," Wood said.

Educational psychologist Fiona Ayers said it was a huge concern the boy had become violent at such a young age.

"That's scary. What is going on in that kid's life that makes him feel he is so unsafe he has to carry a weapon?"

She said there were several reasons children carried weapons: protection from bullies, issues at home, influence from television or video games and simply thinking it was "cool" to have weapons.

"It's more the impulsive ones doing it. I have heard of kids who have left school and gone home then come back with weapons because they are upset. They are the ones more likely to use them."

Unskilled parents were a large part of the problem because children were copycats.

'Some of them, we do have to look at the culture of the environment they are in ... if family or uncles or people in the neighbourhood are doing that sort of thing then it might be one option for the child."

Te Puke High School maths teacher Steve Hose, 53, was stabbed in the neck and shoulder four times last year by a 13-year-old student from a dysfunctional family. The student took his own life about three months ago.

Hose said he ran to the front of the classroom after being stabbed and felt the blood dripping down his body. "I yelled at the kids, 'Get out'. I just needed them out of the way," Hose said. He looked in the "wide focused eyes" of his attacker and said, 'Are you sure you want to do this, mate?'. He looked at me dead in eyes and said, 'Yes'."

Education Minister Anne Tolley introduced new guidelines this year for teachers to search students for drugs and weapons which Hose supported. "But you need to get a senior team to direct the proceedings. One-on-one is a bad idea."


* Knife: 450

* Gun, including toy: 219

* Scissors: 36

* Blade: 12

* Hammer: 11

Total suspensions and stand downs between 2008 and 2010 for weapons-related incidents:
* Primary (Yr 1-8), 409;
* Secondary (Yr 9-15), 609;
* Composite (Yr 1-15), 49 (2008-2010)

Thursday, October 6, 2011

A Protect Team Member's Perspective...

The below blog was written by Brendan McGrath, a senior team member at Protect's Auckland group classes.

Hi there,

I’ve been one of Phil’s students over the past three years (time flies when your having fun;-). So before we kick off just a quick note to say that these views are not strictly those of Protect Self Defence.

I read something in the paper recently, a 74 year old man kicked to death in an alleyway on his way home by three young men, …… fingers crossed there is something valuable here! We really are trying to change ourselves, our friends, and the world!!!

Some stories are great promotional ammunition for the RBSD movement, a martial arts expert beaten up, mugged or worse, dying because they got in a scrap over a shoulder barge, a drunken brawl outside a pub, mugged at an ATM. Sure, true “self defence” can easily help us to control our environment either thru de-escalation or if need be, ultimately thru physical means. So yes, RBSD has plenty of “Look we told you so” moment’s in the media to draw support from, but that’s just too easy, it’s a narrow perspective.

Some stories that are reported are so sad it’s hard to see how we can take something positive from them, some are simply tragic. Some make you wonder how anything we teach would have really helped.

This old bloke on his way home perhaps to his old dear wife, perhaps from visiting his children, he could have been my late grandfather could have been anyone’s granddad or elderly neighbour. A tragic way to mark the end to a life which if he was like my late granddad was filled with generosity and love.

Self-defence is usually a hopeful and empowering message. But there is something about 3 young men beating a 74 year old man to death in an alleyway that is really upsetting and disturbing, it makes me fear for my little boy. That no matter how much I can teach him that at some point perhaps when he’s 70 that this could happen to him, or my dear old mum who goes for walks on the beach with her dog, how can I do anything to protect her?

In fact this event is tragic for those three young men also, their lives are ruined, they may not appreciate it right now as they sit in jail in some ways riding high on the kudos of killing a man, but ruined lives nonetheless.

There needs to be a fuller solution, teaching people kung fu at some point simply becomes bogus and absurd.

I have a secret, a long time ago, almost 20 years ago now as a young man, in a disturbed moment as a very angry kid I swung a piece of rough sawn wood into the side of a woman’s head.

It’s a long story, but in that moment I could have killed her, I wouldn’t have really meant to but it could have happened. I would not be sitting here enjoying my wonderful life, and her children would not be enjoying their loving mother.

It was just dumb luck I didn’t kill her. In the moment that I attacked her, in that moment, I never gave her a name, never understood that her children need her, like mine need me.

Sometimes I find it all rather hard to reconcile how well life has turned out, but it has certainly been on the good graces of firstly a judge, family, friends, and ultimately society. I’m very thankful for that, and that translates to actions not just words, if I spot you out there in trouble I will stop. I physically can’t just drive by; my stomach starts to twist up inside me. I’ve grown up a lot in 20 years forgotten a lot, but the moment I walked into protect the message resonated with me. I have found a lot of redemption in my time at protect, its cathartic.

Something that has stood out for me at Protect, “lets see if we can ALL walk away from this situation unharmed, we are all someone’s child, brother, sister, mother, father, even the arsehole that’s just called you every name under the sun” that fundamentally we care. This is not a soft line on self defence, but a first line. We also have a very hard line for those that would persist and seek to take us from our family, our friends.

At the core of this what I am getting at here is that we avoid violence because we care, we defuse because we care both about ourselves and the instigator of violence and their families, and ultimately we protect ourselves because we care about ourselves and our loved ones.

There is one take out message here, it is NOT about how the principles that “Protect” teach can protect us physically. The message is about how we who believe in the anti violence principles that “Protect” teaches can thru educating our children and those around us to not use violence, in the long term make a safer world, one with more respect and care. In this way our message benefits not only those who come to classes, to seminars, to courses, but it benefits all of our society.

This is the message that can protect my children, my loved ones and people I will never meet, people that have never heard of protect can be safer because of this message.
Some bloke who rants at me from his car, and I apologise and move along… his kids owe an unknowing debt to my learning’s from protect, today their dad wont be in hospital because I put him there or in prison because he’s beaten me to a pulp.

And that view, that aspiration, that higher thinking is not common in self defence. Our aspiration is to affect even those that have never heard of “Protect”. To actually make the world a bit safer for all. In truth a self defence course may not have helped that 74 year old man, we will never know. And the offenders well perhaps it’s doubtful for them also. But consider that we are actually trying to teach people to understand and avoid the terrible cost of violence.

If the offenders parents, older sisters, etc had attended a course…. What we are really seeking is to increase the numbers of people in the population who do not resort to violence as a first base for conflict resolution. It might seem like an impossible task to effect change like that, we cannot afford to let that deter us …………

Heres the story that prompted me to write to you all..

Daughters account