Self defence

Contrary to what we see in the media, Sydney and Australia are pretty safe places to live. Random street crime isn’t all that random. Did you know that in 80% of sexual assaults the assailant knows their victim? In fact, most personal violence, other than robbery, is perpetrated by someone known to the victim. Many violent acts take place between family, friends and acquaintances, where risk factors like alcohol and drugs fuel a volatile situation. The good news for all of us then is that the chance of being randomly attacked is very low, so mostly we need to equip ourselves with a ‘radar’ to warn of trouble in advance and with some useful tools to diffuse potentially volatile situations and get out of trouble early. These tools need to be tailored to deal mostly with family, friends and acquaintances. Our aim in Aikido training is to provide the community with appropriate responses to keep everyday people and their families safe while getting on with the rest of their lives.

Antisocial violence

As much as we would like to believe that we are always safe, there are times, places and circumstances where the risk of our safety being compromised is higher. We walk through high risk areas and low risk areas just doing the everyday. Confrontation and conflict, both verbal and physical, are risks we all live with. Fortunately, most of the violent situations likely to come our way are antisocial: the ego-driven, social-dominance displays we see in bullying, road-rage, alcohol-fuelled confrontation and so on.

That’s not to say that antisocial violence is any less dangerous – any violent act can end in fatality, we only need to look at the recent incidents of “coward-punches” in Sydney – it’s just that death is not generally the intended outcome. The goal of antisocial violence is social dominance of some kind.

The good news, if we can call it that, is that the vast majority of violent encounters are antisocial. This means there is a social component, they seldom erupt out of nowhere and an astute observer can see them developing. Most people need to build themselves up to a violent act and they need some pretext (a look, a spilt drink, an unwary act or utterance) before they let fly.

The reason why this is such good news is that antisocial violence is easily recognisable and always avoidable (as long as you’re paying attention) and even if you miss the build-up you can often just walk away or talk your way out of it. Far better to defuse, redirect, back down or just walk (or run!) away than to roll the dice and chance ending up on life-support or worse.

Let’s be clear, whatever it might look like in the ring, cage or octagon, violence is always brutal, ugly and chaotic. It is never fair, honourable or elegant – that’s sport.

Asocial violence

Asocial violence is perpetrated by people who are indifferent to whether or not their victims survive: the thief who decides it’s easier to take valuables from a corpse, the rapist who murders victims to ensure they don’t report the crime, the person who enters a school or a cinema or a cafe with a firearm and the intent to use it.

A tiny percentage of life involves violent encounters and a tiny percentage of those violent encounters are asocial, so must of us, touch wood, might live our entire lives without ever coming into contact with asocial violence. Many of us, however, subscribe to the view that it’s better to have and not need than to need and not have, as is often quoted.

In asocial violence, once someone has decided to use violence to achieve their aims, they do not need to get drunk or work themselves up to it, they are ready to go and they give no warning. Because there is no social component, you can’t reason with them, can’t appeal to their better nature, can’t walk away, can’t talk your way out of it.

So what can you do? As Tim Larkin, founder of Target Focus Training says, “Violence is rarely the answer… but when it is the answer, it’s the only answer”.

We are very fortunate at Aikido in Sydney to have access to the only accredited instructors of Target Focus Training in Sydney. Have a look at our TFT page.

Surviving violence

Target Focus Training (TFT) deals exclusively with asocial violence – surviving the most critical five seconds of your life. TFT training provides an incredibly valuable skill set and we highly recommend it to your study.

However, as previously outlined, most of the violence we might ever encounter is antisocial. What can you do about that?

Our classes at Aikido in Sydney: aikido for adults, aiki teens, aiki kids and occasional specific self-defence and personal safety classes are tailored to address aspects of preparation, awareness, avoidance, assertiveness and escape, as well as the last resort.

1. Preparation – means increasing your own safety skills, increasing your other safety resources (phone, friends, family) and developing a safety plan.

2. Awareness – is your early warning defence, which takes away an aggressor’s element of surprise. Learn to reduce all distractions (e.g. mobiles & ear-phones), monitor your environment, increase vigilance in high risk areas, learn to assess risk and trust your intuition. Recognise early warning signs and know what it means to become a hard target.

3. Avoidance – there are plenty of opportunities to take evasive action. Walk away from a dispute, if you see or sense trouble walk away, leave even if it is no more than a bad intuitive feeling, if in doubt cross the street, take a wide path around a blind corner, move away from bushes, avoid short cuts through lonely areas, stay with the crowds, don’t allow yourself to become isolated, walk on the outside of the footpath away from darkened doorways.

4. Assertiveness – Most of the time you will be dealing with someone you know. In rare instances of criminal activity it pays to know the type of person you are dealing with. Criminals look for easy targets, with no noise, no challenge or resistance, and no interruptions. They certainly don’t want to be identified or caught. So learn how to make these factors work in your favour.

Elements of assertiveness that you will learn include use of eye contact, body language, body movement, distance and voice, choice of words and tone, naming the offensive behaviour and learning to say NO! A key outcome is to learn how to move and behave in a manner that is calm and assertive – exactly the opposite of what an aggressor expects. The other key outcome is to act assertively while actively de-escalating the confrontation and seeking to escape.

5. Escape – In a threatening situation you keep moving, the direction of movement (i.e. forwards, backwards or sideways) is not important provided it is always towards safety. You may have to break free of a grab before you can escape or you may have to strike to distract, so that you can break free. The goal is always to escape, so don’t be too proud to turn and run. Staying safe is the goal, not looking cool.

You will learn a wide variety of escapes that are useful in the majority of situations. They include ‘grabs’ and ‘holds’ from both front and back, unwanted affection and being pinned on the ground. You will also learn how to strike effectively.

6. Last resort – In a situation of asocial violence where your own life or the life of someone you care about is at imminent risk, when all your preparation, social skills and strategies are to no avail, your only option to save life is to injure the aggressor(s) and go on injuring them until they are no longer functional. This is a genuine last resort. It is never about teaching someone a lesson. It is always and only about survival in that moment. No matter how much you are in the right, there are almost certainly legal and psychological ramifications.