Managing Violence Part 3 (diary entry)

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Wednesday morning started with the 19th hour of my Drum Kempo Ju Jitsu teacher client’s consultation course with me. Today we continued with potential triggers and moved onto situational awareness in relation to social violence from Joe Saunders’ “Managing Violence” course.

We finished off potential triggers by tracing them back to two universal triggers: disrespect and disempowerment. These two triggers act in a vicious circle, further triggering each other. With socially violent offenders nearly always acting from a place of insecurity, it is unsurprising that they will be sensitive to feeling disrespected or disempowered. Such an individual will feel that they have either had their perceived position in social hierarchy undermined, which is a deep-rooted evolutionary survival instinct in the pack animal’s psyche. The trigger is a defensive mechanism prompting the offender to act in order to restore their position less they lose their standing within a group, which ultimately leaves them with less control over their lives. This might be as simple as cutting in front of the local tough guy or having to tell a distraught parent their child will have to wait in a hospital queue.

Taking the lesson into situations where social violence might occur we covered some simple lines of advice. Avoidance, when possible, is the best course of action when it comes to any self-protection situation. Just as there area places, based on their geography or societal history, that harbour predatory violence so the same can be said for social violence. The most obvious is the public house or bar where locals go to relieve the pressures of their work or private lives usually with the assistance of familiar companions and their choice of flavoured Central Nervous System depressants. It’s a place that facilitates groupings into tribes and natural territorialism. Other places might be less decided by their location and more by an event e.g. family gatherings. With knowledge that a specific place or, due to the inclusion of certain personalities, a particular event has a reasonably high probability it result in violence, the best option is to simply avoid. However, often this comes down to a judgement call. If you know a place or event has a strong likelihood it will lead to violence but weigh it up that you still intend to go, the do so with your eyes open and your state of situational awareness raised.

We then discussed violence-inhibiting environmental elements. This brings us into line with my core self-protection course where I used Mo Teague’s “People, Places, Hazards, Changes and Context” model. Depending on the context of the environment the presence of uniformed security or police can be an effective deterrent. This raised an interesting discussion drawn from the Steven D. Levitt’s paper on why violent crime (and crime in general) dropped so dramatically in the 1990s.  Levitt was go-author of “Freakonomics”  and offered four robust theories for the dip in crime. His most controversial (and today surprisingly topical in the US) theory was the legalisation of abortion in several states in the 1970s. However, another factor was the increased presence of uniformed police on the street. Other violence inhibiting factors might include the presence of more vulnerable people, including the elderly, and even the presence of broadly respected elders in a community. At the other end of the scale, I have had reports from those who have worked security in known gangster clubs where the probability of violence was low due to a miniature version of assured mutual destruction (everyone was armed, connected and the possible repercussions would weigh heavy on the minds of those in attendance). The presence of cameras or a generally very hazardous environment could also be effective deterrents. For example, you don’t tend to hear about many instances of workplace violence occurring in nuclear power plants.

Exits are part and parcel of my awareness drills. It is vital to scan anywhere in order to gather intelligence regarding escape routes. Joe Saunders describes primary, secondary and tertiary exit points. He also points out hazards as per the Mo Teague model in the form of obstacles and their nature: are they temporary, permanent or removable?

Not Quite Right or NQRs bring us into the Gavin De Becker realm of survival intuition. I have debated the validity of intuition on podcasts and in my books. In short, the consensus of opinion is that “gut feelings” should not be ignored and the brain does appear to pick up on danger signs. Matters only get murky when we start discussing gambler’s intuition or mystical concepts. For the most part, NQRs might also come under the banner of “Context”. Not being quite right can be an unusual mannerism being exhibited by a potential offender or someone reacting to them, a group dynamic or simply wrong clothing for the weather or environment.

Clothing and group dynamics brought us onto the more detailed unpacking of situational awareness, which are listed under human observations. General appearance was important too where we talked about conscious stereotyping used by antagonistic people or street gangs versus fashion trends. All of these topics can be grouped under “Context”, but they all can be determined by “Attitude and Behaviour”. Finally, we touched upon another controversial topic in self-protection: Body Language. For me, this can be roughly divided into two areas: overt or obvious body language and deceptive body language. Overt/obvious body language is fairly well documented and has been for decades by the likes of Desmond Morris. With little instruction, we can identify bulging eyes, flaring nostrils, balling fists and “peacocking” behaviours as obvious aggressive body language. There are more subtle areas like dilating pupils or pale faces that also have a strong correlation with a person committing a violent act. We also see how a person positions themself to get an idea whether they are intending to fight or flee. However, we also need to be careful about deceptive body language concepts. This area has largely been criticised as being a type of pseudoscience. Personally, I loved “Lie to Me” and there is a solid argument for the study of tells and micro expressions, but there is also a huge amount of retrospective assertions made that do not prove the case for this being a solid science yet.


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