Thursday, March 29, 2007

Good Samaritan...OK, NO!!!

Last week in Charlotte a guy with his girlfriend stopped to help a stranded motorist. The hapless driver had his hood up and head buried in the engine when the victim in the story stopped to render assistance.

Next thing he knows he has a gun planted in the side of his head, his money is stolen and then, to add insult to injury, the motorist and his three accomplices walked he and his girlfriend round the back of some apartments and made him watch (at gunpoint) while they took turns raping her.

(To prove the depth of planning two of the three rapist actually used condoms)

I've said it before, and I'll say it again, as sad as it may be you must not stop and help anybody. The best thing to do is either call emergency services (if the car you see is stranded on a major road) or, from a distance, ask the person if you'd like them to call someone for them to come and help. Getting out of the car to help yourself is a rookie mistake.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Sign, Sign everywhere a sign...

We have gestures for almost every type of problem you're likely to face when driving a car. Someone waiting to pull out of a drive in front of you? Wave them out.
Someone just let you in? Wave graciously to say thanks
See someone with their lights off? Flash yours
See a cop lying in wait? Flash your lights at other motorists to let them know
See someone with their turn signal on? Put yours on or turn on your hazard flashers or alternatively open and close your hand and they'll usually figure it out.
Someone cuts you off? Well, you all know that one right?

The only one we don't have a gesture for is to apologize to a fellow road user for something stupid we did...and stupid is often the cause of road rage incidents. Lets say you don't see someone in your blind spot and you change lanes and nearly force them off the road. They're angry and they come screaming up beside you intent on giving you a piece of their mind. What do you do? Scream back or flip them off? Surely not, it was your fault after all. And yet, if you do nothing they're likely to assume you're ignoring them, or don't care, which is only likely to compound the error.

I submit a great idea is to carry a piece of white cardboard in your car with the word "SORRY" written on it in large black marker and keep it accessible. If you do the inevitable and screw up, instead of making matters worse by ignoring the guy, or gesturing in a way that may be mistaken for something else, hold up your sign and smile. I'd be willing to bet a load of money that one simple move would eliminate a slew of road rage incidents across the country every day.

PS: If some enterprising soul reading this decides to market them and sell them at gas stations etc, be nice, give me a cut.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

What'cha Reading?

This is an old bodyguard trick when travelling overseas (sorry for those of you with no travel in your future plans) to help lower your profile.

Buy a local newspaper or magazine and carry it with you. This sends off a signal to locals intent on kidnapping a rich foreign tourist (and remember, you're rich by most third world country's standards) that you are either a) a local, or b) have visited enough to understand the language.

[Can YOU spot the tourists?]

Either of those make you far less appealing as a potential target. You can do the same with local brands of cigarettes (assuming you still smoke) and/or your wardrobe. It's normally way too easy to spot the Americans in a lot of third world shitholes by their clothing, mannerisms, speech volume, and expensive jewelry and luggage. By eliminating or toning down the above you reduce your risk immensely in ever being singled out as a target. everything you can to lower your profile


Monday, March 19, 2007

Myths of Combat

I'm not going to attempt to cover all the myths of fighting...there's just way too many but one I can put to rest today is the old "If you're fighting a gang all you have to do is challenge the leader to a one on one fight and he'll accept, otherwise his gang members will assume he's gutless."

Whoever first wrote this gibberish has obviously never had a gang fight in his life. The above would work if the guy leading the gang had any honor, or if they gave you time to talk, or if they cared what you had to say. Unfortunately they have no honor and they don't care one iota about you...all you are to them is some temporary amusement or a food source.

Another myth that goes hand in hand with this one is that if you drop the biggest guy the others will run away. No, they will stomp the crap out of you because you just hurt one of their mates. I have stopped some fights with a technically perfect first technique that has dropped someone so hard the others have taken pause but, they weren't hard core gang bangers inured to violence of frightening degrees.

Now, hitting the biggest one will certainly eliminate one of the biggest threats but it will not scare others away just as challenging their non-existent honor will not work either.

In future entries I'll cover some strategies that have proven effective but for right now let's eliminate advice that just plain doesn't work.


Sunday, March 18, 2007

Interesting Observation

This isn't so much a self protection tip as it is an that will resonate with martial artists everywhere. (and maybe insurance agents LOL)

You walk into the office on Monday morning with a black eye, a bruise or a swollen anything.

Everyone asks "Wow, what happened?"

If you reply with "I did it playing basketball, baseball, football, racquetball, volleyball or any other type of ball" the next words out of their mouth will be...

"Did you win?"

Now, if on the other hand you say "I did it in my Judo/Karate/Combatives/Ju-Jutsu or any type of martial arts class" the next words out of their mouth will be...

"You people are crazy" while they shake their head and walk away casting dispersions on your sanity under their breath.

I wonder what the difference is? Do they feel threatened? Are we making them realize they haven't covered that aspect of their life yet and rather than admitting that's a mistake it's easier to lump us into the "they're all crazy category?"

One of my students is an insurance salesman. He occasionally turns up at work with a training related bruise and runs the gauntlet of the head shaking crowd. Pretty funny when you think about it. They're all insurance agents in that office and they'll try and sell you on the benefits of protecting your car, your house and anything else they think needs coverage and yet they haven't covered themselves from the risk of being attacked, mugged, raped, assaulted and so on.

Given if you're killed during a car-jacking/robbery or home invasion you won't live to enjoy your house or your car which one makes more sense to insure first? Call me crazy if you like but I just think the "insurance policy" provided by good self protection training is more important than almost anything else I can think of.

Right On

I want to preface this post with the fact that I am not in anyway affiliated with OnStar or any company it may be parented by...I don't work for them, never have (probably never will) and certainly don't get any kick backs.

As an addition to my post about the self protection features of SUVs or 4x4s I wanted to talk about OnStar.

It's a service (for those readers in countries that don't have it) that comes in certain brands of cars that will, for a monthly fee, do certain things.

The base fee covers security, the next level offers things like directions and phone service and the premium package has a concierge service for booking restaurants and theatre tickets etc.

In the vehicle are a series of 3 buttons that you push depending on what you need and, when you push them, you are connected, hands free, to a real live operator.

Here's what I love about the system.

1. If your airbags go off, they call the car. If you don't respond they immediately dispatch emergency services. I listened to a chilling recording of a phone call one night on a current affairs program. It was from a woman in Florida who drowned in her car. She had driven off the highway at speed and ended up in the everglades with water leaking into the car. She pulled her cellphone out, and contacted emergency services but they couldn't locate her in time (The current affairs show was about the inability of emergency services to triangulate and locate cell phone signals) The same thing happened here to a girl in nearby Gastonia. She rolled her car into someone's field. When they found her three days later she had written a note to her family while she lay trapped and dying in the car. The OnStar feature in either of those two scenarios would have literally meant the difference between life and death.

2. If your car is stolen the police are called. Once you have a report number they call OnStar and they locate the car via the GPS system. My local Caddy dealer told me about one of their vehicles stolen by four black hip hop fans who cut the wire from the buttons thinking that would disable the tracking. The dealership realized about 5 hours later their car was missing. OnStar got involved and found the would be thieves in Richmond VA heading north. State Troopers were called and they blocked them on the Chesapeake Bay bridge.

3. Should you accidentally lock the keys in the car you call in and give them your pin number. Voila, they pop the locks from their control center.

4. If you or a family member is driving the car and is being followed by a suspicious vehicle or involved in a road rage incident etc they can push the emergency button and relay the info to OnStar who dispatch emergency services again. They also stay on the line till the professionals arrive.

5. Imagine your wife driving the car somewhere and getting lost and ending up in the wrong part of town? That happened to the family in LA that drove into the gang area and were shot for "trespassing" that was in the news a few years back. With the OnStar system you call them and they talk you through the directions step by step till you arrive at your destination.

From a self protection standpoint it doesn't get much better than the above. So, if I'm going to buy a vehicle I'd rather have an SUV and, if I'm going to buy one of them I'd opt for the one with OnStar.

Food for thought

Friday, March 16, 2007

Good For The Environment? No. For You, Yes!!

This issue was raised on a forum I'm on and it was about the big bad SUV (or 4x4s for UK readers)

From a purely self protection viewpoint they're the best vehicle you can wrap about yourself.

1. Sitting up so high gives you a vantage point over regular cars and bikes...forewarned is forearmed.

2. You have the ability, should it be necessary, to bug out over sidewalks, curbs, fields and terrain that will leave a normal car gasping for breath and traction.

3. If you're involved in an accident you will probably survive. The "greenie" in the pregnant skateboard that you hit will not. This, understandably, bothers the "earth biscuits" but to my way of thinking it makes me want to buy an SUV immediately. The old "If you can't beat them, join them" springs to mind.

4. If inclement weather descends upon you, whether it be ice, mud, rain or snow etc you have the ability to climb in the truck and go. That's huge from a self protection view point. The guy in the car is caught in the flood waters or are'll probably be the guy going out to rescue him (at which point, if he's an "earth biscuit" he probably won't bring up how much he hates you and your gas guzzler)

5. If it becomes necessary you can bulldoze obstacles (cars etc) out of the way be it a road block, road rage or, if you're hemmed in and a car-jacking commences. You can't do that in a normal vehicle.

6. You have the room to load family and all the gear necessary to get out of dodge in the event of a disaster or riot etc and head for the hills (which you can get up thanks to the 4 wheel drive ability of the vehicle)

So, while they may guzzle gas, and they may not be so hot for the environment they are wickedly brilliant from a self protection viewpoint.

Something to think about


PS: I had an argument with a guy once when I had my Tahoe. He was bitching about the gas guzzling, harming the environment, killing kids and wiping out families in cars. He shut up when I reminded him that every single argument he was making against SUV's could be levelled against him and the car he drove by someone who rode a bike (motorcycle or pedally)
Cars guzzle gas compared to bikes. They're road hogs compared to bikes. The take up a whole lane and usually have one person in them - bikes do not. They kill motorcyclists almost every time they hit one...and they do that on a regular basis, usually because they're on their cell phone...and the list goes on. I also owned a motorcycle at the time and he didn't so there he was, without a leg to stand on.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Newest Scam

Thanks for all the replies re the frequency of my posts. EVERYONE said one a day is fine so that's what I'll try and come up with.

A new scam I've just become aware of bears discussing.

Here's how it works. You check into your hotel room, the phone rings, and it's the front desk. There's a problem with running your credit card and would you mind confirming the numbers please. The problem is, it's not the front desk at all. Guys are sitting out in the parking lot, after having "surfed" your name (remember that post right?), and calling the front desk asking to be transferred to your room. When you answer they play the part of the front desk and "engineer" getting your info.

You don't know your card is being used for a ton of purchases until either your card maxes out, or you get home a month later and get your statement.

The lesson here is obvious. Be aware of "surfing" but more importantly, be highly suspicious whenever anyone wants your credit card info over the phone unless you've called them to buy something.


Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Reader's Help

In a bid to make this a great blog and worthy of getting people to read it every day I've been reading up on blogs.

One alleged expert said one thing that will kill a blog is posting too often. Now, he didn't say what that meant...he could have meant ten times a day or maybe he means every day.

I couldn't get an answer from him so I figured I'd ask my much is too much? I try and put up a tip a day for you guys but, if it's too much, let me know and I'll happily cut it back.

Over to you.



Sunday, March 11, 2007

Pet Peeve

I was at the bookstore the other day and perused the ones alleging to teach self defense. Sadly, judging by the material within, most of the authors last fights had to be over Tonka trucks in the sandpit at day care.

Can we clear this one up for once? You cannot teach girls wrist locks and armlocks and call it self defense. Well, alright, you can, but you should be sued for misrepresentation when you do.

To begin with there isn't any such thing as an armlock. The technique is actually an armbreak. Remember that all of these techniques derived from fighting for one's life, oft times on a battlefield. Why, in the middle of a battlefield would you take two of your arms to tie up one of the enemy's? How long are you going to do that in the middle of a war going on? Till he cries "uncle" or gives in?

Nope, you broke their arm and thus rendered them "hors du combat" and you moved on to tackle the next guy.

Look at the above picture. What do you honestly think would happen if the "mugger" just stood up? Look at the inverted grip? If he just violently yanked his arm free could she hang on or would she get sliced as the knife passed through her hands, arm and armpit?

Somewhere along the line the breaks became misconstrued as pain compliance techniques...probably because in training you'd take them to the point where the joint started to break - thus causing pain - at which point your training partner would cry out and let you know.

Alright, I'll admit it. I've used them as pain compliance when removing someone from a club and controlling subjects whilst a military police officer. Here's the deal though, I still have to big enough and accomplished enough that when I let the subject go, and he decides to fight, that I can do the job and knock him out if necessary or, a cop, I'm going to control the arm long enough to get cuffs on.

What is our hapless female victim to do? She's being attacked by a rapist (and let's hope there's only one of them) and she puts the lock on him. Now what? You going to lecture him on the error of his ways and hope he repents? You going to wait till the police come all the time controlling this struggling man with superior upper body strength to yours? Are you hoping he cries "Uncle" and accepts defeat? Are you going to take it to it's logical conclusion and break the joint? Could you? Have you ever heard one break? Do you have any idea how strong you have to be to pull it off?

Bottom line is if you are much smaller than your opponent you're not putting locks on him if he doesn't want you least not until you've hit him enough times to stun him. If it takes that to put it on, why not just stun him and make scarce anyway?


The Sky Is Falling

The picture to the left is that of a BMW in Germany in which a 20 woman was killed and her Grandparents injured when 3 teenagers threw rocks from an overpass.

Look through Google and you'll find thousands of incidents related to hooligans throwing objects from overpasses...a lot of them result in major damage to vehicles, some to injured drivers and passengers and a few even lead to fatalities.

Here's a good habit to get into when driving under any overpass/bridge...look up and see if you can see anyone up there. If you do, make every effort to change lanes just in case. This is something I do at night anyway, whether I see anyone up there or not.

Another avoidance strategy - assuming you can't change lanes due to traffic - is to rapidly decelerate or accelerate.

Let's assume a worst case scenario...your car is hit and you're still alive and mobile. DO NOT STOP the car. A favourite tactic of gangs in Central and South America is to have their friends wait 400 yards up the road out of view. When the hapless motorist pulls over to inspect the damage, the friends descend upon them and rob/rape/pillage etc. It's only a matter of time before that trend makes its way here. Don't be the first victim of it in your country.

So, just to recap. Scan overpasses as you near them. If you see someone, change lanes and or vary speed. If you do get hit, don't stop until later when it's safe such as in a rest area or gas station. Once again, awareness is going to be your primary defense.


Friday, March 9, 2007

Surprise or Tea?

Years ago while on a club door some of the other bouncers and I were discussing all the different sorts of fights there were...multiple assailants, armed assailants, multiple armed assailants and so on.

One of the older hands, a boxer called Mel said "nope, there's only two types and that's slow build or ambush" Many years later I heard it described as a "brewing situation" or "flash."

Brewing of course refers to a slow build up of tension. A good example would be the guy that bumps into someone early in the night and now the two get into a staring competition and various gestures. As the night wears on the staring and gestures become more demonstrative and soon insults are being hurled with threats of "lets take it outside then"

The ambush or flash fight on the other hand comes without warning. I'm aware of a friend of one of my students who was standing at an ATM and turned just in time to notice the lump of wood coming down on his skull. He awoke later with some woman, hanging out a car window while she withdrew her cash, looking down on him with disdain, assuming he was some sort of a bum.

There's no excuse for getting in the former. Self protection is all about avoidance so, if a situation like that is developing, remove yourself from the scene and defuse it. Nobody ever died from being insulted walking away from a potentially violent situation. Plenty have died hanging round trying to fight in them though.

The ambush is another kettle of fish and that's best avoided by judicious use of awareness.


Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Surfs up

"Surfing" is the name given to the crime when someone looks over someone else's shoulder and reads their personal information...might be their pin number, might be their address or account number etc.

Probably the most daring I heard about was the guy - and his family - caught by an alert airport cop in California. He was hanging round the airport with his wife and kids and pretending to film them with his video cam. His cam however had a zoom lens and he'd film people's credit card info when they were holding them up to make calls on the phones that required to pay by card and punch your info in.

He only got busted when the cop, who really needs a pat on the back for being on the ball, saw him two days in a row and thought it odd. He surreptitiously watched for a while, figured out what was going on, and took the guy, and his wife and kids, down.

Another old favourite version of this was (and still is) to go to the airport and stand in line behind someone dim enough to have their name and address label on their luggage. The enterprising crook would make a note of the info and then go hit your house knowing full well you wouldn't discover the crime until you got back from your trip.

What can you do? Awareness is the first step in defense. Now you know to keep your personal info, pin #s and credit cards etc personal i.e. don't wave them all over the place and be careful of who is standing right behind you, and what they're doing.

If you're going to travel, it's true the airlines will make you use a luggage name tag...but no one can force you to put it on the outside of your bag. As long as it is on or in the bag somewhere that's fine. If you have the money, swanky luggage has the leather tag with a flap over the pertinent info so it will only be visible if someone physically peels the tag back and looks. Great to have, and worth the money.

Beware the surfers.


Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Kids Stuff

Parents often ask me what's best for their kids to learn. Despite being a black belt in several styles of karate and an unarmed combat instructor and Filipino martial arts student my answer is always Judo.

To begin with your child will learn how to do break- falls. This skill, highly valued by stuntmen, will save them (and you) hurt and medical bills over the duration of their childhood as they fall off bicycles, and trip on things. Heck, forget childhood, it's saved me many times as an adult as well, not least at all when coming off my motorbike a few times.

Next, it is an Olympic sport. There's always the off chance that your wunderkind will go on to be an Olympic medal winner which is no bad thing.

Third point is that it will wear them out physically so they won't be home bouncing off the walls because they haven't spent any energy today.

Fourth is the fact that the techniques in the kid's programme are non-striking by nature. They involve throws and pins, no joint locks or strangles. Unlike Tae Kwan Do or karate, which teaches striking, this means that your kid's likely response in a fight at school is going to be go grab someone and trip them to the ground where they can be pinned till a teacher arrives.
If "Little Johnnies" trained reaction is to punch and kick instead then he's far more likely to do so in the event of a fight which can mean serious injury to the recipient.

Fifth, Judo is one of those sports that just tends to be populated by "nice" guys. This is invariably due to the fact you can't "hide" in a Judo school. Everyone who holds rank has had to compete (hard) to get it and so there's no fantasists running around convinced they're lethal weapons when they're not. (something sadly you run into often in trad martial arts)

Sixth, Judo is cheap. Because it's a non-profit organization clubs charge a mere pittance for membership. Last time I went I think I paid about ten bucks a month and kids paid a dollar.

Now, is that to say the karate programmes are no good? Not at all. Some of them now are nothing short of amazing in that they make sure the kids are taught discipline, keep their rooms clean, get good grades and respect their elders etc. In Charlotte, Mike Price is the go to guy for that stuff. I've recommended several of my friends to Mike and his programme is brilliant so, if it's karate "little Johnnie" must have then go to Mike's. However, if you're looking for the Olympic sport that trains champions and like the idea of your kid not learning how to punch and kick then Judo rocks.

Sunday, March 4, 2007

Goldie gets a Mickey...nearly

Many years ago while training and working on club doors I trained with a guy called Goldie.

Goldie had an interesting tale to tell and that was while he was at work one night he put his drink down to go and settle down a couple of punters who were yelling at each other. Once he'd got them settled he came back to pick up his drink and a girl in a nearby table said "I don't think that's yours."

Goldie assured her it was and she replied "but I saw some other guy grab it a minute ago and play with it."

Goldie had his wits about him, immediately put the drink down, and later on had it analyzed (via complaints to the police etc) and they found it contained rat poison and LSD. The two guys yelling was a decoy designed to lure Goldie away so the poisoner could carry out his plan.

Now death threats and attempts aren't that rare if you bounce in any sort of heavy establishment...I myself have been stabbed numerous times and shot at twice that I'm aware of, but that was the first time I heard of a poisoning attempt. Immediately I took note of the lesson and made it a hard fast rule...if my drink left my hands even for a second, I'd leave it and go get another.

The reason I bring it up for everyone else is due to the proliferation of stories about "date rape" drugs being dropped in drinks etc. I personally know one woman and her friend who had champagne bought for them by some guys who did so upon learning it was one of the girl's birthday.

The girls in question drank the bubbly and left immediately after and were both violently ill on the way home to the point they had to stop the car and throw up. Given the only common thing they'd both ingested that night was the champagne they were of the opinion later that they had been slipped drugs in the drinks. It was a very common occurrence at the time in that bar in Charlotte so that was the conclusion. I ran it by some cop friends of mine who worked security nearby and they agreed it was the most likely explanation.

So, my suggestions are these a) women, don't accept drinks from strangers unless he buys it and you see the bartender make it. and b) if you put your drink down for whatever reason, buy another one rather than picking up the original. You just don't know what someone might have slipped in it.


PS: I had another mate, a forty year old businessman and teetotaler, who had his drink spiked by someone with an LSD tab. He nearly died during subsequent hallucinations etc and while in hospital they found out what it was. They tracked it back to one of his colleagues who thought it would be funny to see "Johnno" loosen up a little.

Friday, March 2, 2007

Five Seconds

A girl in my office was telling me the other day about being attacked by two guys who attempted to drag her into their car, in broad daylight, in a shopping center parking lot.

As I got the details I realized she'd violated two rules of self protection. The first one was that she was task fixated. It turns out she was on the cell phone getting information for an appointment she had to make. The second big mistake was a violation of the five second rule.

When you get to your car have your keys already in your hand, get in, and, within five seconds, lock the doors. Preferably drive away and then stop somewhere safer than a parking lot and make the calls you need to make.

I constantly see (and forgive me but women are the worst offenders) women sitting in their cars balancing their check books, putting on their make up, admiring their new purchases, without the door yet locked or, in worst case scenarios with the door still open.

This is exactly what the girl in question did by the way...door open, foot on the sill, appointment book on the roof of the car, phone under one ear and pen in the other. Because they hit her from behind she wasn't even able to get a description to tell the police.

So, here's the five second rule. When you get to your vehicle you've got five seconds to lock your doors once you're inside. That's it. Do that and you'll make it very hard for people to do what these guys did to her.

Some cars come with programmable locks that will shut automatically once the car reaches a certain speed. Not a bad idea but it violates my five second rule by a long shot. Don't wait for the automatic feature to kick in. Get in, lock the doors. Done, simple and effective.

Remember, you are your own bodyguard.


Thursday, March 1, 2007

Exit, Stage Left

We used to play a game designed to test awareness when I was on certain teams as a body guard. It's another one that lends itself very well to the civilian world.

It involved going into a restaurant (or any building) and at some point covering up someones' eyes and asking them to point out where the exit(s) was/were. If they couldn't immediately point in the correct direction dinner was on them.

Obviously the need for a body guard to know where the exits are in case of an emergency is fairly evident. What about for you? Well, it's simple self protection again...don't go into somewhere you don't know the way out of.

Also, consider this. In the event of an emergency you may well not be able to look up and see where the exits are. Whether it be a bomb, a fire an earthquake or any other disaster, smoke, flames and people will be in your way. You'll be disoriented and precious seconds will be gained knowing in which direction you need to be heading instead of running round in a blind panic like a headless chicken.

Remember, take care of one else will do it for you.