Today’s online teaching consultation with Drum Martial Arts and Fitness in Ireland brought us into hour three. We are discussing children’s self-protection and related topics that help develop my client’s teaching knowledge.
We began with a discussion on how the new Animal Instincts teaching programme intends to involve parents. Having parental support is the most efficient way for self-protection information to stick. Just as adult self-protection teachers can benefit from their child student feedback –as covered in my “Mordred’s Victory” book – which can also be fed into adult self-protection, so parents can become better minders and teachers of their children.
Animal Instincts teaching programme will endorse the use of record books that parents fill out to confirm their child has demonstrated real world skills. Self-protection needs to be thought of as an essential life skill that goes hand-in-hand with other areas of safety education. Children need to learn a variety of independent skills from buying items in a shop to buying transport tickets to crossing the road. These skills should be seamlessly blended with situational awareness, establishing security with their adult guardian, managing money safely, maintaining personal space and being mindful of all exits.
This brought us onto stranger protocols. By their very definition, strangers are unknown elements in a child’s life. However, when a child is lost or trouble they are their most likely resource. Such circumstances are defined by the fact that their trusted adults are not present. We went through stranger recruitment protocols and why this should feature heavily in any child self-protection programme. Simple takeaways are that children should be wary of strangers who approach them but they should not be scared to approach strangers. They should never leave with strangers but use strangers for assistance. We discussed educating children on stranger selection.
Whilst on the subject of selecting, we went on a tangent discussing how victims might be selected and target hardening. It is a frequent talking point but can never be over-stressed. After all being a hard target is fundamental to avoiding predatory violence. I recommended “The Wisdom of Psychopaths” by Kevin Dutton, which offers some interesting insights into the way predators are hardwired to spot vulnerable people.
Another tangent prompted me to discuss the unusual outlier of predatory trap setting. This is where strangers manufacture a child’s approach by luring them into dangerous situations. “The Flypaper” is a creepy short story by Elizabeth Taylor (not the actress) with a disturbing twist that was dramatized for Roald Dahl’s “Tales of the Unexpected” anthology series. The tale not only demonstrates the danger of going with a stranger, no matter how harmless they seem, but also the double-tap demonstrated in the real-life case of Peter Kurten’s final victim (covered in my podcast, “Aftermath Part 1”).
Having looked at the positive role parents can play in a child’s self-protection education we moved onto how several adults fail children with their ignorance of self-defence law. Everyone has a right to self-defence regardless of their age. Self-defence is not retaliation or revenge. Physical aggression is regular and very common part of a child’s life. It can come in a wide range of boundary blurring forms. Part of a good self-protection teacher’s responsibility is to ensure a child understands what they can and cannot do. Parents need to be equipped with this information so they don’t disempower their children by simply telling them they are not allowed to fight back if they are assaulted or go the other way and motivate them into unnecessary violence. Likewise, teachers need to understand that their policies are not above the law. Just because two children have been caught in a violent altercation it does not necessarily mean the fighting was mutually consensual. Many children go through their formative years either taking beatings for fear of getting into trouble or getting into trouble unnecessarily.
In the adult world we see this sort of thing happening within even professional security. Firms scared of litigation cover themselves and endanger their staff by putting into place business policies regarding control and restraint. People involved in security disempower themselves by worrying whether they techniques are being forced to use against a violent person are in alignment with Home Office approved control and restraint.
This brought us into scaling physical responses. Again, it is a vital area for children who are prone to face a wide range of physical threats once their adult guardian is removed. My argument for self-protection training in general is to always teach high risk responses first as it is easier to scale down. However, in recent times I am redeveloping and re-emphasising more work on mid and low level risk responses at the basic level.
Finally, we briefly went over the fence, pre-emption and scaling down force. This is yet another topic that warrants the deepest of discussions. Quite simply, people don’t get the concept of being proactive when there is an imminent risk. There are many reasons for this, much of which is driven by societal programming. However, if one does not make pre-emption at the core of their self-protection work every hard skill is reliant on the incompetence of an attacker. From “Defence of the Street” to “Cold Steel” to the works of Geoff Thompson, the value of pre-emption is the constant reality-check that has exposed much of the weakness present in idealistic self-protection methods.