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

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-27 years training in personal safety -Multiple martial arts black belts -Multiple instructor certifications -Certified law enforcement trainer -Crime Prevention Specialist -Previous self-defense trainer for one of the country's largest airlines -Child safety specialist -Certified Fitness Trainer -TACTIX Fitness Trainer -High Intensity Training Specialist -FAST Defense Instructor -Kid Escape Instructor
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