Friday, December 29, 2006

Child Abduction Prevention?-A Look At Reality! (PART 2)

Child abduction prevention is a serious subject that should not be taken lightly. However, I am still amazed at the number of instructors and systems, even nationally recognized systems, that continue to promote not-so-serious techniques and strategies. As mentioned in part 1 of this article, a serious abduction prevention program will not be based on punches, kicks, or other fancy martial arts techniques. The facts of my previous article remain the same, these types of skills are next to useless for children who's potential abductors generally outweigh them by 100 pounds or more. If this truly is the case, why are such techniques still being promoted by programs around the country? There are an infinite number of possible reasons for this, here are just a few-

1) The instructor wants to believe in the program so much that he/she refuses to acknowledge the weakness of said program
2) The program is based solely on martial arts knowledge and lacks research in other fields such as learning & teaching theories, motor-skill theories, survival stress reactions, etc.
3) The material presented in the program has not been pressure-tested for practicality or effectiveness
4) The program is based on a specific martial arts system and is designed to compliment the instructor's chosen system taught within the school.

Regardless of why this practice has continued, it needs to change. Every time one of these programs is offered to unsuspecting parents & children, it creates a false sense of confidence and leads these children to believe that they are prepared for something they may not be.

To illustrate the point I would like to discuss some of the martial arts techniques commonly taught in some of these programs. While these techniques and skills appear to work great in a controlled training environment, they tend to fall apart under the stress of a real abduction attempt.

Most people understand the basic concept of a punch. Basically the hand is formed into a tight fist and is used to strike at various bodily targets, while using the tops of the knuckles as a striking surface. Punching is a important component of any comprehensive martial arts curriculum. However, punching is a learned skill that requires months, years, or even longer to master. It is a skill that represents the essence of the term "Martial ARTS". Punching is, in fact, an art form in and of itself. To be an effective puncher the practitioner must possess solid kinesthetic awareness, have a fair amount of muscular strength, have an understanding of body mechanics and power development, and must be in fair physical condition. Now, if all of that isn't enough to illustrate why it's an inappropriate skill for a child abduction prevention program, let's look deeper. The hands contain the most brittle bones in the human body, while the head, the most common target for punching, contains the hardest bones in the human body. Once this is understood we can see why using the fist to punch the head, doesn't make much sense. If it doesn't make much sense for adults, why would it make any more sense for a child? Then to take this even further, the study of real adult fights has proven that some adults can take brutal punches to the head and body with little to no effect. If this is the case, how can a child be expected to punch hard enough to actually inflict enough injury on an adult abductor in order to successfully escape their grasp?

This is a common martial arts technique often included in children's programs. If you aren't familiar with it, the technique consists of touching the fingertips of your hand together so that the hand forms the shape of a bird beak. The combined fingertips form the striking surface, which is often directed at the eyes or other soft targets. In practice, the children strike handheld pads using this odd hand configuration. In training, it works great against large handheld targets but how effective is such a technique against real-life aggressively moving humans? That's what I would like the reader to think about. If we actually analyze the hand configuration, the target area, and the skill that's necessary to acquire said target under stress, we realize how difficult such a technique can be for an adult. While keeping this mind, how much more difficult will it be for a child who has less coordination, less motor control, less athletic ability, etc.? On top of this, consider the fact that the potential abductor will likely grab the child's arms and/or torso in an effort to carry them to a nearby vehicle or some other location. During this process it will be highly unlikely the child will have the opportunity to use this martial arts strike to effectively hit a target the size of a quarter, on an aggressively moving abductor.

This is a simple tool that consists of directing the open palm of the hand toward the desired target area. The striking surface is generally the lower edge of the palm closest to the wrist, commonly referred to as the palm heel and the target area is generally the facial area. While I agree that this can be an effective tool for adult self-defense, it is less effective and less practical for children, especially smaller ones. Why is that? Let me tell you. In order for the palm strike to be effective it must be reinforced by a certain amount of muscular strength. Like punching, a proper palm strike requires some kinesthetic awareness and some coordination, although not to the same extent. As was implied previously, the potential abductor will likely be bigger, stronger, more coordinated, and more aggressive than their chosen victim. If such is the case, how can a child be expected to strike hard enough with the palm or accurately enough to slow, deter, or stop such a predator?

Like the palm strike, this is another solid technique for adult self-defense. It consists of driving the knee into the groin or other nearby target area of an attacker. However, this technique is of little value to children in potential abduction situations. Like the palm strike, a proper and effective knee strike requires a certain amount of muscular strength. On top of that, it also requires a minimum height in relation to the height of an abductor. In other words, most children will be too short to effectively apply a knee strike to the most practical target area of an abductor, the groin. If that isn't enough to illustrate how inappropriate this technique is for children, consider this, men do not always fall down in agony when they are properly and effectively struck in the groin. I have seen and heard of many cases where a man takes a full power blow to the groin but keeps on coming. While facing this reality, how can we expect children to use such a technique to effectively escape an abduction attempt?

KICKS (all variations)
This is another common martial arts technique taught in various so-called child abduction prevention programs. Essentially it consists of using the legs and feet in a variety of ways to hit various targets on an attacker. Examples might include: a front kick that targets the attacker's shin or goes straight into the groin, or a round kick that targets the attacker's knee or side of the leg. In a training environment such techniques work extremely well for children. The mock abductor allows the child to perfectly kick them in the desired target and then reacts with dramatic results. However, this is nothing like the stress and chaos of a real abduction attempt. Under stress most people have difficulty standing on one leg, which is essentially what is being done while attempting kicks. If that isn't enough, we must consider that the abductor may likely be rushing in on the child giving them little opportunity to assume their proper kicking position. In a split second the abductor will have the child securely in their arms and will be carrying them off into the unknown, all while the child attempts a technique that has been found ineffective, even for adults.

This is another martial arts technique often taught in children's programs. A foot stomp consists of driving the heel of the foot straight down onto the desired target. In most cases, the top of the abductor's feet is the primary target while in other cases it might be the abductors hands or head if they happen to end up in a prone position during the struggle. While such a technique might have validity for adults, it is another technique that is ineffective for children. Let me ask you this, how often have you tried to stomp the foot of a friend or family member while they quickly attempt to move their feet to avoid it? If you have never tried this I would suggest doing so right now. You will quickly learn just how hard it is to stomp a foot that won't stay still. What is often overlooked in the controlled training environment is the fact that the abductor is in a hurry and they won't be standing still long enough for any child to effectively stomp on the foot or toes. Not only this, but the majority of children, especially smaller ones, will not possess the strength or body mechanics to effectively use such a technique against an adult abductor, even if they are lucky enough to hit the target.

Now that we have taken a deeper look at some of these common techniques taught to children, let me make a few points for clarification. Some of these techniques may work for older children and teens depending on the several factors such as size and strength of the victim and size & strength of the abductor. However, it seems more appropriate to give children techniques that have a higher probability of success, regardless of these factors. In other words, the children need skills that are not dependant on their physical attributes or on the physical attributes of the abductor. They need skills that have a good chance of working in most situations, most of the time without having to rely on luck. In some cases, instructors use success stories of children they have trained to promote the effectiveness of some of the techniques mentioned above. However, what the instructor neglects to mention is the situation, the physical attributes of the abductor or the victim, the percentage that the skill was used effectively, etc. etc. Instead of just taking an instructor's word for it we need to analyze the situation by using as many details as possible. We need to ask questions and make no assumptions based on the instructor's word alone. For example, a 110 pound boy successfully uses a palm strike to deter a 140 pound abductor. This simply proves that given the similarities in size and strength the palm strike was effective for the boy. Does this mean that the palm strike will be just as effective for a 60 pound girl in the same situation? Absolutely not! The point is that the techniques should be universally effective for all children and should not based on physical attributes. Even if a technique is successfully used by a child it does not automatically make it a good technique. A good technique is one that has a high probability of success regardless of the child or the situation.

If you happen to be a parent looking for solid abduction prevention skills for your child, please take all of the above into consideration. Your child's safety is a serious issue and one that should not be taken lightly. Do some homework to investigate the instructor and the material that they offer. Don't assume that just because they are an instructor that they have your child's best interest in mind. Don't assume that just because a program is offered by someone of authority or is nationally recognized that it offers the best techniques or strategies available to children.

If you happen to be an instructor offering such programs to children I ask that you seriously reflect on what has been written here and that you take the children into consideration before you teach them skills that could compromise their safety.

Copyright 2005, Personal Safety Unlimited- Steve Zorn
Sunday, December 24, 2006

Is Self-Defense A Morbid Fascination?

I am constantly surfing the Internet looking to improve my self-defense knowledge or for ways to network with others who have a passion for keeping people safe.

During my "travels" I see all sorts of things and hear from all kinds of people. However, some of the most absurd things I periodically see are safety-related websites covered with pictures of skulls, reapers, death, and gore.

A question that immediately comes to mind is - what does all of that death and gore have to do with self-defense and personal safety?

Personally, I see self-defense, personal safety and crime prevention as means to empowering lives. It's about making people feel safe and secure, not giving them nightmares.

Can the application of physical defensive tactics be violent? You bet! Could it lead to the death of one or more of the individuals involved in the altercation? Absolutely! This all goes without saying. However, if people tend to dwell on the negative consequences of protecting themselves, they could actually be setting themselves up for a negative outcome.

In other words, if all a person thinks about is death in regards to personal safety it could lead to a couple of possible outcomes. 1) Because of negative conditioning they automatically assume the worst...that they will die if they attempt to protect themselves. They have essentially been conditioned to give up in the face of adversity. Or 2) Because of this type of condition the polar opposite could happen. The individual could develop paranoia to the point that they overreact to situations that would be non-threatening to a reasonable person. They could actually escalate situations and even end up severely injuring or killing someone because they were conditioned to see everything as a deadly-force threat, a life or death struggle.

Owners of these websites that I speak of might say that what I am saying isn't true, but here is a little experiment to prove my point...

Right now I want you to clear your mind of all thoughts and most importantly I don't want you to think about a bright apple-red sports car. Whatever you do...DON'T think about a bright red car.

Let me ask you something...what were you just thinking about? I will venture to say that you briefly thought about some kind of red sports car. How do I know this? order for you to NOT think about something you must first think about what it is you are NOT supposed to think about. Make sense? This is just how the mind works.

Now in regards to the pictures of skulls, reapers, and gore. If I show you these pictures on a daily basis and ask you not to think about death, what do you think is going to happen? Since you are constantly being reminded of what it is you aren't supposed to think about you will obviously have a hard time NOT thinking about it. Get the point?

The reality is that while we may sometimes be forced to use violence to protect ourselves or our families, it isn't something that should be glorified.

I suspect that instructors who paste their websites with such dark images don't truly understand the consequences of their actions.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Definition of CQC (Close Quarter Combat)

The terms "Close Quarter Combat" and "CQC" are often thrown around the internet by martial artists posting to various forums or even on their websites. However, what they fail to realize is that very few non-martial artists understand what the term actually means.

So, here is my basic definition of these terms:

Close Quarter Combat is a general term coined by the various militaries of the world. However, the term has now spread throughout the law enforcement, and martial arts communities. The term is pretty much self-descriptive. It is used to represent physical engagement of a threat in a close or confined environment. More simply put, it means moving in close to the threat or the attacker so that the situation can be resolved as quickly and efficiently as possible.

What makes Close Quarter Combat different from the various forms of martial arts is the fact that it is designed to efficiently neutralize the threat with any and all means necessary. Practitioners of CQC care little about the origins of the techniques and tactics, but instead care about the effectiveness of said techniques and tactics. Another thing that sets CQC apart from various martial arts is it's integration of empty-hand and weapon systems. In other words, practitioners of CQC do not favor any technique, tactic, or weapon over another. They learn to use each and every tool equally so that they can adapt to the chaotic nature of combat.

Often, martial artists are taught to confine their responses to techniques, tactics, and strategies taught only within their system. However, CQC practitioners are free to pick and choose only those techniques, tactics, and strategies that have been proven to work.

In short, CQC is about the freedom to adapt to any given situation without being confined to a specific set of stylized responses.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Personal Safety for the New Year

I actually created this blog a year ago but for some reason or another got sidetracked and neglected to keep it updated.

However, as we move into the new year I am making an early resolution. I intend to start adding conent to this blog at least monthly. If time allows, even more than that.

So, I ask that you check back regularly to gain an insight into my thoughts and opinions regarding the topic of personal safety, self-defense, and crime prevention.

Until then, feel free to visit my website.

Stay safe,

Pre-Assault Indicators

Here is a brief list of pre-assault indicators, or clues that a person is about to attack you-

- persistence
- talking too much
- contradictions between words and body language
- triggering intuition
- erratic eye movements / target glancing
- erratic head movements
- facial color
- erratic or increased breathing
- bulging veins
- agitation / fidgeting
- poor judgement
- paranoia / defensiveness
- nervous confusion
- threatening and/or abusive language

Study them and learn to recognize these indicators before a situation becomes an actual assault.

Copyright 2005, Steve Zorn - Personal Safety Unlimited
Saturday, January 28, 2006

Child Abduction Prevention?- A Look At Reality! (PART 1)

There are literally hundreds of martial arts schools and instructors out there offering courses on child abduction prevention. On the surface this appears to be a good thing. However, the problem is that not all of these schools or instructors are qualified to offer such courses and their courses do not always reflect "reality". This is a fact and once we realize this we have to then determine what makes an instructor qualified to offer certain material. For one, the instructor has to have a strong desire to actually help both the parents and the children. If the instructor actually does have this desire then he or she will do everything in their power to bring the students the latest and and most advanced material in the particular field. The instructor will make absolutely sure that the material offered holds up to the "reality" of the situation, in this case it must hold up under the stress of an actual abduction attempt. If the material doesn't appear to be based on this "reality" then I would suggest finding another instructor. As an example, a martial arts instructor in a nearby town is offering so-called child abduction prevention classes. Some how this instructor cohursed the local news channel into doing a segment on his school and his classes. During the interview the instructor states that his classes are based on teaching the children how to punch and kick. He claims that punching and kicking is the key to children surviving abduction attempts. This is absolutely an absurd idea and any instructor teaching such nonsense is being negligent to their students as well as the parents and in my mind, commiting a criminal act. The majority of techniques taught in martial arts schools are absolutely useless for child abduction prevention and this includes punches and kicks. The fact is, the majority of child abductors are both larger and stronger than the children they abduct. This means that children will most likely be unable to effectively employ punches and kicks to escape such a situation. Anyone teaching such tactics to children has never had to face a violent situation where the use of force was a requirement to their survival. If they had, they would know that it's difficult for a large adult to effectively use punches and kicks in such situations. This being the case, how can they expect a child to effectively use such tactics??

The next thing that qualifies an instructor to offer "reality-based" child abduction prevention classes is the possession of a solid background in both martial arts and various areas of self-defense and security. Being a black belt instructor in one style of martial arts does not automatically qualify anyone to teach child abduction prevention, in fact it doesn't even qualify them to teach basic self-defense. The key is finding those instructors that have invested years of dedicated research into the field of child abduction prevention or have pursued instructor certification with reputable organizations who specialize in this particular area. Also It must be pointed out that there is a big difference between martial arts and self-defense and any solid self-defense program will only loosely be based upon any particular style of martial arts. To that end, child abduction prevention, which is a form of specialized self-defense, should not remotely resemble a martial arts program. If it does, find another instructor.

Lastly, financial gain should not be a priority of any credible instructor. In fact most credible instructors will be conducting such courses for free in order to agressively help the parents and children in their communities. However, it's not uncommon for an instructor to charge a small fee for their valuable time and possibly to cover the charges of various program handouts. If the instructor is charging an unreasonable amount for such a service or if it seems that finacial gain is a top priority, find another instructor.

In closing, child abduction prevention is ultimately the responsibility of parents. With this understanding they should seek out qualified instructors to help them gain a better understanding of the subject and learn how they can keep their children safe. They should also learn what to look for in a qualified instructor and choose such an instructor wisely. The end result can be either positive or negative, based upon these choices. Remember, we are talking about the safety of children here!

Copyright 2004, Personal Safety Unlimited- Steve Zorn
Sunday, January 01, 2006

Modern Components of Reality-Based Self-Defense!

There are literally thousands of martial arts, self-defense, and close quarter combat systems out there. All of them have their place and each offers a different perspective which essentially depends on the goal of the student. For example, if the student's interest is in cultural traditions and historical applications of a chosen style/system, they should choose a style/system which emphasizes these particular aspects. However, if the student's interest is in self-defense they should also choose a style/system accordingly.

If your primary interest is in reality-based self-defense, you should be aware that there are a few primary components which should make up such a system. If any one of these components is left out it could ultimately compromise your ability to protect yourself or your loved-ones.

There are 5 primary components of any "reality" system and a few secondary components. These components together represent a complete and comprehensive reality-based self-defense methodology. The components are as follows-

1) Mind-Set - the willingness and determination to do whatever it takes to survive a violent situation is one of the most important components of real self-defense. Before a student can successfully utilize physical skills to protect themselves they must prepare mentally. This mental preparartion is the key to reality-based self-defense.

2) Awareness - the ability to oberserve the world around us is far more important than any physical self-defense skill. By properly using awareness skills, most people can completetly avoid potentially violant situations before they happen. Awareness skills include internal awareness, external awareness, general observation skills, and common-sense strategies such as learning how to not look, act, or think like a victim.

3) Basics- this obviously includes blocks, stikes, kicks, as well foundational concepts principles, and theories. The basics include the study of weapon techniques as well as empty-hand techniques. The techniques should be based upon simple gross-motor skills which can be used effectively under the stress of combat.

Obviously, all self-defense and martial arts systems contain the basics. Although, there may be different basics taught by different systems generally they all offer some solid techniques somewhere within their curriculums. The key is to learn which basics are actually functional in life-or-death altercations and which ones are not.

4) Skill & Combat Drills- this includes simple skill developing drills which are used to build skills and attributes that can't be developed as efficiently by other means. Attributes include things such as speed, power, coordination, endurance, "flow", conditioning, sensitivity, and others.

Skill and combat drills have been a topic of debate for some "reality" instructors. Some of these instructors and systems tend to focus on basics and scenarios, claiming that drills have no place in a reality-based curriculums. However, the fact is that without drills these systems will never allow a student to develop to their maximum potential. As mentioned above, drills develop attributes that are needed to survive life-or-death altercations. Any system that neglects these attributes is simply neglecting the student, PERIOD. To put it in perspective it must be pointed out that all modern sports and modern athletes use drills to develop attributes. All modern military branches and soldiers use drills to develop attributes. All academic schools in this country use drills to develop attributes. If your so-called "reality" instructor is slamming drills or slamming those systems that teach drills, it's time to find another instructor.

5) Combat Scenarios- this includes scenarios and situations based on what really happens in the world. They can include scenarios involving robbery, rape, and other vicious physical attacks. The key to scenario training is to make it as realistic as possible while avoiding injury to yourself or your training partners. To make scenarios realistic we need to avoid the common martial arts situations and focus on what is seen out on the street. This means eliminating the commonly taught "mount" and "guard' positions taught in martial arts ground fighting because they have little functional use out on the street. We should know how to deal with them just in case but instead of training for them why not train to avoid them alltogether?

Scenarios are taught by a majority of styles and systems. However, the key to "reality" training is how those scenarios are taught and how they are used to develop the practitioner's combative skills. First, the scenarios need to be based on real-life attacks. The "traditonal" self-defense scenarios versus wrist grabs, for example, are ok to teach beginners but the truth is such scenarios do not reflect reality. Traditional ground-fighting positions do not reflect reality, traditional defenses versus karate-style straight punches do not reflect reality. To develop reality-based scenarios simply study real-life attacks and build scenarios around such attacks. The key is to progressivley increase the reality and intensity of the scenarios to the point of being as close to real-life as possible without the negative consequences such as injury or death.

The above five components should represent the foundation of any reality-based self-defense style, system, or course. Along with these foundational components we need to include physical conditioning and crime prevention.

The study of all of these components will provide the student with the knowledge and skill that's needed to survive violent situations.

Now that we have an idea as to what should be included in a reality-based self-defense curriculum let's take a look at some things which should not be present-

Uniforms- Although uniforms may have their place in a comprehensive cultural-based martial arts systems, they have no place in "reality-based" training. Simply put, to replicate reality we must train in the clothes we will most likely be wearing at the time of assault, if we are unlucky enough to be assaulted.

Punches- As mentioned, if your goal is to learn every facet of martial arts then punching skills definitely have their place. However, if the goal is to learn quick methods of street survival, pass on the punching. The reasoning is simple, punching is a learned skill that takes months, sometimes years, to master. Once mastered there are still no guarantees that the practitioner won't severly damage their hands when they need them the most, while being assaulted. Remember, the head contains the hardest bones in the human body, while the hands contain the weakest bones in the human body. Even with this common-sense understanding, it still amazes me how many "self-defense" courses emphasize punching skills over simpler and more effective techniques.

Traditional Blocks- Although the traditional blocks taught in many martial arts systems tend to work great in a controlled training environment they seem to lose their effectiveness out on the street, especially for those with less training under their belts. Chaotic assaults tend to cause a physiological response in humans. This response, refered to as the fight or flight response, tends to override some of the body mechanics learned through martial arts. In other words, some of these blocks do not respresent our natural physiological response to actual real-life assaults. This may lead to conflict between the body's natural ingrained response and the trained response found through martial arts. Simply put, this may lead to a delayed physical & mental reaction to the threat which could lead to a negative outcome for the good guy.

Traditional Kicks- These are a necessity for comprehensive martial arts training, but are next to useless for real self-defense. Under the chaos of an assault, the act of standing can become difficult enough without having to worry about balancing on one leg. Remember, the feet are the foundation for the torso, if the foundation is weak so is everything else. Does this mean that kicks should not be included in a reality-based training program? It doesn't mean that at all but it does mean that we should limit the kicks to simplest and most effective ones, which includes the knee stike, the stomp kick, maybe a low front kick, and possibly a low round kick.

Traditional Ground Fighting- As mentioned previously in this article, ground fighting is needed to become a comprehenisve martial artist. However, the need for "traditional" ground fighting in real self-defense is pretty slim. If a person finds themselves on the ground during an assault their goal should be to get back to their feet as quickly as possible in order to escape safely. The longer a person stays on the ground the greater the chances of severe injury or even death. Traditional ground fighting tactics emphasize locks, holds, submissions, and just plain wrestling, while reality-based ground tactics emphasize simple and efficient survival methods designed to enhance the ability to escape.

These are just a few of the components that are not needed in order to survive real-world assaults. If self-defense is your primary reason for seeking out a training course, be sure that self-defense is what you are getting. Discuss your needs with the potential instructor. Be sure to ask questions and make sure you get the proper answers to those questions. If the instructor gives you the run-a-round or overlooks your questions, find another instructor. If you use this article as a guideline, you can't go wrong.

Copyright© 2004- Steve Zorn, Personal Safety Unlimited

About the author: Steve Zorn has been a student of the martial arts & self-defense for 16 years. He currently travels to offer private lessons and seminars on all aspects of "reality-based" self-defense.

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