01 A Self Defence Primer

Self defence is a popular topic and there is a steady stream of enquiries asking about self defence. Learning aikido develops many of the skills that form the core of good self defence programmes.

Learning any martial art (including aikido) isn't self defence but develops skills applicable to some scenarios. Whilst we offer traditional aikido training we will from time to time run special self defence sessions. In the mean time here are some thoughts that may address your concerns

Our top 10 things to think about for self defence. These are just a starting point and your mileage may vary.

1. Your pretty safe
First up , the good news…you are probably OK. Australia is one of the safest places to live in the world and random violent crime is unlikely to happen to you. The most likely ways violent crime occurs are through common risk factors, that with a little for thought can be reduced significantly in your life.

If your thinking about self defence, quite possibly its arisen because of concerned for children or loved ones putting themselves in harms way or a feeling of vulnerability in public life. You might also have had experience of an incident in your life, a friends or something you saw on the news that has made you have a second look. 

The following pages step through a progression of ideas on self defence, based on research and the practical experience of some well known professionals. If you are in a hurry to undertake some self defence training its wise 
to check that a significant proportion of the time is spent on the non physical aspects.  The decisions you make in your life well before it gets physical are probably the best self defence actions you can make.  Whilst hitting punch bags and yelling are important aspects of self defence training it takes time to bed these skills in.

2. If you are involved in a violent incident
If you have been involved in an incident it may have prompted you to start looking for self defence training as a form of self help and here you are at this website!. Self help is sometimes empowering but can be a poor substitute for professional help. It is not unusual for victims and even those that just witness violent crime to suffer from PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) in a similar manner to combat veterans. Consider seeking professional help, it might be the best investment in personal safety you make!. Using the punching bag to work through these issues may or may not be the best approach for you.  Recommended reading for reflection and perspective. Amdur, "Training for survivors of violence"

3. Random crime is pretty low
The Australian Bureau of statistics and Institute of Criminology make detailed reports of crime and violent crime (02a Overview of Violent Crime). These figures are used to make policing more effective as well as design public spaces to reduce the incidence of crime. Here are some of the most common risk factors, if any of these resonate in your life you have an opportunity to reflect on these.

These statistics make for sobering reading. When incidents of sexual assault are closely examined we find that they happen mostly indoors and that the attacker is someone the victim knows. (And very often a relative.)  It really turns things like self defence training on its head.

4. Love thy neighbour
So your friends, friends of friends and family are the most common people likely to cause problems and its most likely to be in social situations. The statistics of incidents between those known to each other are alarming (80% of homicides, 60% sexual ) and in a home or dwelling(57% homicides, 67% sexual). According to the Australian Institute of Criminology only 6% of female homicides were perpetrated by a stranger

The Wham! and Bam! of self defence training may not be
the best to use here. What can you do to change the environment? Can you limit the use of alcohol, drugs etc.. or ensure a safe environment for their consumption. Knowing the past behaviour of family members can you help act before the situation gets too serious, yes this means telling creepy uncle Vern to stay away from your knee or avoiding being alone with him.

Across the road from where I used to live you could set your clock by the neighbours saturday afternoon BBQ and ensuing activities, by late afternoon drinking had everyone quiet, after the sun went down there would be an argument, about then some people would leave but some would choose to stay, a bit of a punch up or trashing the house followed shortly thereafter , sometimes if we were lucky the police would come and take someone away, around9-10pm all was quiet again. we don't live here anymore but it was interesting to see peoples choices in this environment.

5. Other risk factors
Many of these come as no surprise but are worth thinking about. Perpetrators are markedly young, male, alcohol or substance intoxication is common, unemployed or under-employed, residentially mobile and many have poor impulse control. Interestingly victims share almost all of the same charasterics. Wherever these risk factors are in combination is a toxic environment some examples include undermanned public transport facilities, private parties, night clubs and pubs. Common times include closing times at shopping centres, end of the working week celebrations and arty night (e.g. saturday night). ALMOST every murder committed in Queensland during the past year was suspected to involve alcohol, crime statistics show(Courier Mail, Dec 28, 2010). With a little care you limit some of these factors in your life through lifestyle choices without compromising enjoying yourself too much?

6. Trust your Gut
Many people report after an incident, that before it happened they had a bad feeling.  Sometimes people act on these feelings sometimes not. In western society we put great store on personal rights, pride ourselves on rational thinking and not losing face is universally important especially in social situations. All of these three factors are reasons we might ignore, suppress or fail to act on a bad feeling. Of course you have the right to finish your beer at the table you got to first, walk on the sidewalk rather than cross the road, not put up with verbal insults or walk cooly past when your 'spider sense' is telling you to run like hell' but being right isn't always the most important thing.

Acting on a bad feeling means nothing happens, it also means you never know if you made the right decision of not - you were a scary cat for nothing right?

Its pretty hard to give a conclusive answer, the decision is yours.

7. Assertive not agressive
Everything you do is evaluated to see if you are a potential victim. If appear over encumbered, deaf, blind and physically weak you are going to be a great victim for someone. Instead walking tall is a powerful statement about your physical capability, with free hands and arms you tell everyone you are not going quietly.Eyes up to see and notice someone noticing you stops stuff before it happens. iPod free ears not only hide wealth but let you hear whats happening. Congratulations your now nobodies easy mark! Before it gets physical you can use your voice to draw attention to innappropriate behaviour. You can let someone know you are not a victim who'll go quietly or stop someone in their tracks. Simply by naming specific behaviours you don't feel are appropriate, that make you feel uncomfortable or just don't like you can stop a situation from turning bad, don't put up with it and watch it escalate

8. Distance
If you are at arms length from trouble it can't touch you. In aikido we use the term ma-ai called correct distance or spatial awareness. For the Japanese swordsman this distance was 10m apart, its not a bad starting point. If your awareness is high and you see trouble coming from a mile off even better - its time to go! Like leaving a football game early to get the first train home, you can leave a volatile situation before it gets physical. 

With hands held out in front of you, usually palm up you have created a fence or barrier to protect you. To get any closer is now much more difficult. Hands can help you break free of engagements through pushing, breaking contact and even as a strike to distract. These skills are best left to face to face training rather than on a website.

9. Distance manipulation
Likely assailants also are experts in managing distance and use a variety of methods to manipulate you, to close the distance, move you somewhere private. Classic tricks are asking for the time, a light, directions or help. Verbals challenges and insults can use your egoic behaviour to draw you closer.  Removing victims from the public eye is another tell tale sign. (I remember being invited by someone who claimed to have been my doorman at a hotel in Nairobi to help him push start his car in a back alley..i don't think so… though i still remember his toothy grin of hospitality when doing so

10. Its not at all glamorous
Despite what you see on the movies, violence isn't at glamorous. The physical unpleasantness of loss of bowles, blood, sweat and the stink of adrenaline are unpleasant but wear off. The effects of physical and mental injury arising from violence on your lifestyle, psych and relationships can take longer to heal.

Ok well thats the ten suggestions, but here is number 11!

11. Enjoy Life
Its very easy to focus on the negative, biologically we are motivated to respond to fear driven impulses (they kept us safe on the plains of Africa), tun on the TV and the news its a grim picture out there. Draw on your own personal experiences and feel how safe you are and have been, spend your life enjoying it not living our fear induced paranoias. By al means take reasonable steps to be safe, just don't let it dominate your existance

12. Addendum: Violence is a tool
The use of violence is not morally wrong. Make the decision ahead of time when its ok to use it as a tool, because your assailant already has! Its not pretty but worth thinking about. TFT's founder Tim Larkin shares 'Unfortunately the faces of killers are often scratched up, showing the victim had the capacity to fight back but didn't....scratching a face could have easily been an eye gouge' (see TFT article)

The development of these tools and research was supported by a community grant from the Australian Institute of Criminology, statistics were provided anonymously by a leading researcher in the field. Personal protection 'Train the trainer' workshops delivered by Catherine Schnell of Personal Safety Concepts, Hawthorn Victoria and Asocial violence workshops by Mike Allen as an authorised Target Focus Training Instructor. Information on physiological effects of violence sourced from On Combat, by Lt. Col. Grossman