Workshop for the Study School at the University of Leicester (diary entry)

University of Leicester, UK.

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30.03.11 I was delighted to be invited to give a brief one hour workshop on self protection methods for Leicester University as part of their “Study School” day. Students from a far a field as Salt Lake City, Utah, attended this inaugural event, which featured an extremely diverse array of subjects all loosely associated with the positive and negative aspects of risk. Despite living in possibly the safest times in recorded history, the developed world seems to exist in an era ruled by Health and Safety, and at the mercy of the Risk Assessment. The word “risk” is now a regular feature of our language. It means a lot of things to different people. To some it is a stop sign, to others the potential the individual to shine. This is perhaps why the civilized age is beset by more fearful people than ever before – thanks largely to the sensationalist media and the lack of familiarity with violent threats – and those who thirst, not just for adventure, but extreme adventure. Unfortunately I arrived only just before my own workshop, so I missed out on two excellent sounding lectures related to the security industry.

After Professor John Benyon introduced the day, the first speaker was “The Last Mission” author Dr Steve Gibson. His talk: “What I Know about Risk from Intelligence Gathering Behind the Iron Curtain”. Hopefully Dr Gibson will attend another event like this and I hear about his Cold War exploits. What I think intrigued Mils the most about this talk was the way Dr Gibson applied his amazing experiences to the way he both pragmatically and provocatively approaches risk.

The second lecture was given by Fred Barlow and concerned “Military and Private Sector Maritime Counter-Piracy Operations”. From what I heard from attendees, Mr Barlow explained the problems with little to no regulation out in the areas where pirates have attacked. It seems to be something of an under-acknowledged threat, particularly over here where piracy is a virtually non-existent threat, but it certainly isn’t going away. After lunch I delivered my workshop.

My section was entitled “Practical Frontline Self Protection Training: Lessons for Risk Anticipation and Response”. This was a heavily condensed version of what our American cousins might refer to as “Self Protection 101”. We touched upon pre-fight, in-fight and post-fight procedures as it related to asocial violence. This included readdressing the OODA (Oberseve, Orient, Decide and Act) loop with reference to my coach, Mo Teague, and his three R (Recognize, Read and Respond) abbreviated version that edits out decision-making. One attendee, a future lecturer for the day, agreed based on her personal experience, that there was no time to make decisions when she responded to a potential attack. I defined a threat by using a method similar to a ven diagram model offered by Dr Richard Hoad later in his talk about electromagnetic threats. A threat is someone who has capability, accessibility and intent. We discussed the effects of adrenaline and other hormones on the body and immediately saw it when I conducted a short pre-emptive strike pressure test.

This then brought us onto the importance of establishing boundaries using the concept that Geoff Thompson labelled “the fence”. All attendees took part in a role-play activity where they practiced preserving their personal space against deceptive or aggressive potential threats. With the boundary concept in place to assess whether or not someone is a physical threat we moved onto what happens if the threat really is physical and tries to breach your boundary. The pre-emptive strike selection tool is ideally a percussive weapon, such as a strike. An open hand either delivered straight or as a hook ideally at the head provides a high percentage/low maintenance choice for the average civilian. This was drilled on the focus mitts.

The session was finished with suggestions for further research into this topic and post-fight considerations – maintain awareness (ref: OODA or 3 R loop), the law as it relates to the pre-emptive strike and use of reasonable force, first aid and dealing with post-fight adrenaline and self-doubt.

The next workshop was headed by Mathew Pemberton who discussed his highly original concept: “Orchestrating Performance: A Professional Musician Describes Why Practice and Robust Criticism are Vital to Businesses Preparing to Act under Stress”. Matthew matches me with his sense of enthusiasm for his subject and desire to expand and create. He presents a fascinating analogy between the way an orchestra is set up and conducted and the way a business is run. Any new perspective presented on performing under pressure is of obvious and immediate interest to me. So, it was refreshing in one sense to see a different angle and also reassuring to see my basic principles confirmed. Also, another appealing factor of Matthew's workshop was his promotion of reference material for further study. Please see below for the two books he recommended. They both come from a muscial perspective, but are designed to be applied as general hard work principles to many factors in life.

Shaddy Mansouri-Marsh was another nice surprise. Given the title was “Growing Confidence” I anticipated a self-help guru. Shaddy seemed to fit the bill being a self-proclaimed “fuzzy hippy” (not a visual description!), but she happily came out against the New Age motivational promises and instead offered a sensible if energetic and highly engaging workshop on developing confidence. Enthusiasm is infectious and whether or not members of the audience agreed with her – and I think the majority were won over – many couldn’t help becoming engaged in the discussion. However, this wasn't just a talk on the nature of confidence, it did have a material focal point. Shaddy's subject was essay writing, something that was of immediate relevance to those in attendance. Being a writer, and a regular writer of articles at that, it certainly got my attention! Like Matthew’s peace, Shaddy’s was original, creative and also very pragmatic.

The final section of the day was delivered by Dr Richard Hoad of QinetQ who, like me, dealt with the risk head-on and focused on a specific threat. Lying completely outside my field of experience Richard revealed the extent that our computers and other electronic devices are exposed to electromagnetic threats. There have been a few isolated cases reported, but the problem seems to be that if an attack has happened there is virtually no forensic evidence. Apparently the American military is paranoid about the prospect of electromagnetic threats, which can steal and destroy information, as well as causing actual hardware destruction. It proved to be an insightful and informative lecture on an unusual yet viable threat that potentially affects everyone in the developed world, especially as our reliance on electronic devices increases. The security industry should certainly take note. The day was a very interesting experience for me and I look forward to being a part of Mils Hills’ future projects.

Further Resources

Dr Steve Gibson's BookDefence against paranoia:

Survival signals:Understanding how the body works under stress:

Debunking the self-help industry:

Real inspiration for hard work, dedication and organization from a muscial perspective:

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