Covid restrictions are lifting in many countries and regions - meaning social life is slowly reappearing and the party scene is back again.
After perhaps many months without socialising, for self defence aware people, there’s another danger emerging, even if Covid-19 is a lesser issue (right now) in their locality.
The generous flow of our most disinhibiting substance, alcohol, brought together with the psychological stress-inducement of crowded masses of humans, can bring an unwelcome mix of conflict and, sometimes, explosive verbal and physical violence.
Krav Maga practitioners and those concerned with personal safety and security will know this and always pay particular attention to the dangerous potential of boozy social celebrations - taking the necessary precautions to keep themselves and their family and friends safe from unwanted and unnecessary perils.
We all know that life has risks. We make calculated judgements to avoid these and we mitigate to avoid the hazards.
Maybe we don’t drink to excess or we don’t seek out the most notorious venue for our social engagements. We don’t walk home alone late at night or through the poorly lit, badly reputed neighbourhood. We keep our phones with us, situational awareness switched on, wealth or money not on display or a taxi booked for our return journey.
But, we also know that sometimes life visits us with unexpected twists.
At the wrong place, at the wrong time, the social criminal, maybe inhibited by his own inebriated celebration, may be seeking to dominate or educate their chosen victim. His or her ego status wants the better of you or get you out of their territory.
The monkey dance begins, a fight is building up, the audience is watching your next scene in the play and you are invited to take part. How do you respond?
Or, the low-life predatory criminal, out of sight, in the hidden dark on your peaceful way home, ‘innocently’ approaching you, intently seeking what you have, and is prepared to exert violence to get it; wallet, phone, car keys - or just the abhorrent gratification from a sexual or violent assault. What do you do?
Let’s look at some simple and effective self defence strategies that do not require physical action to eliminate or deescalate the prospect of a violent threat.
Self defence starts with your everyday presence.
This is the stature of your walk, the situational awareness of your eyes looking around you, the availability of your hands and the tall posture of how you stand. If a human predator ‘interviews’ you - and you will mostly not know if and when it happens - your first self defence success is invisible.
Do you look like you are confident? Do you look like you know how to athletically move your body? Do you look like a person of authority? Do you give a vibe of calm, relaxed, ‘I’ve-been-there-got-the-teeshirt’ attitude to confrontation?
Violence is ultimately a form of communication.
Your first unspoken words should be: ‘I’m high risk. I’m giving you doubts. Don’t mess with me. Walk on. Pick someone else.’
Criminals - like the rest of us - consciously and subconsciously conduct an assessment of violence; risk versus benefit. Your presence must have a message; to be as high as possible on the negative risk scale.
If your presence has failed and the human predator is upon you, seeking the opportunity to get close with his potential intent of harm and his means - his unarmed limbs or yet-unseen weapon - you need to assess quickly the situation and respond.
If the aggressor is engaged in a ‘monkey dance’, he is a ‘social’ criminal. His primary goal is not violence, his illogical aim is to elevate his status, to ‘educate’ you or defend his ‘territory’ in front of an audience as you are seen as a rival from a similar social group.
The monkey dance will not be performed to children, old people, females (if a male), overtly gay people or disabled individuals. There is no reward from the audience in gaining the upper hand in these scenarios.
If the aggressor is a younger male (as they often are) and the audience include peer group females, his willingness to apply violence is accentuated manyfold.
The monkey dance has a simple rule for you to remember. Risking life and limb for anything other than saving life and limb is ego. It’s your ego.
It’s amateurish if you’re skilled, its childish if you’re not. Your ego is not your amigo, as they say.
Fighting is illegal and fighting is high risk - even when highly skilled. You maybe can control the start of a fight. You definitely cannot control the outcome. Remember your goals: Go home safe. Stay alive for your loved ones. No criminal or civil liabilities.
Monkey dancers don’t want to fight. They want to ‘win’. Your best strategy is to give them the illusory ‘win’ they are seeking.
Their ‘win’ is also your goal. Engaging in a monkey dance that you were reluctantly invited to carries very difficult legal self defence claims if the matter is brought to law enforcement attention later.
Did you replicate the ‘intent’ of the aggressor by your verbal responses? Did you in any way show that you had the ‘means’ to match the aggressors fists by stating your own ability and willingness to fight? Did you help his ‘opportunity’ to fight you by not moving away when you could have as he engaged? Did you not ‘preclude’ the fight from ever happening by staying on the premises, rising to the challenge presented to you?
Fighting is not sport. Fighting has consequences. Limbs, life and legal - for both parties. It is the action of last resort only.
Avoiding monkey dancers is simple. Instructions are clear. Apologise and walking away will resolve the vast majority of situations. Ignoring the monkey dance completely is another strategy. Talking calmly back, asking non-confrontational questions (distracting his mind from his intent) using a low-pitch and low volume, slower rate of speech is another tactic, all delivered with relaxed exterior and authoritative, but non-confrontational, body language. Keeping your distance and not closing in is always a must. Distance is time, time is safety and in this case, distance is non-confrontational messaging and part of any later self defence claim.
Some people believe displaying force is a strategy to apply to the monkey dance. It is a high risk tactic. It can be effective but it can also backfire badly.
Firstly, if your bluff of being a tough guy with special skills is called out, you don’t only risk a rapid escalation, but if it fails to intimidate you will almost certainly be forced to use it.
Secondly, your later claim to self defence may be severely compromised, as witnesses may testify to your (maybe very convincing) affirmation of willingness and ability to deliver pain and injury to the aggressor. You may win the fight. You risk losing your job, freedom, family, home and future prospects after considerable prison time.
Worth it? You decide.
Just saying calmly: ‘I’m sorry. If we fight, you’d probably beat me hands down, you look like a tough guy. Let’s skip that stuff and I’ll buy you and your friends a beer.’ It’ll only cost you a few pounds. Or play the mature, older, wiser person: ‘We have no quarrel to have. You’re with your friends/wife/girlfriend/partner. Go and dance/chat with them/her. Don’t worry about an old guy like me’.
Never argue with a drunk or someone under influence of illegal substances. Their actions are not predictable, intentions much more difficult to read and liquid courage is in play.
Never monkey dance with a group of people, they can all monkey dance with you - with serious consequences. Just walk away. Ask yourself; Is this my problem, really? Do I need to be here? Do I want to accept the risks of staying?
Monkey dancers need an audience to dance for. Predatory, low-life criminals (and ‘resource criminals’ - after your possessions) are desperate to avoid one.
Serial killers, sexual predators or psychologically unbalanced individuals with violent intent do not work with emotion and avoid the spotlight of a scene to play out their criminal acts - often with a weapon to swing the odds in their favour. Violence is their goal. Your possessions are their goal. Their action is solitary. Witnesses are threats.
Are you in an isolated place? Tick. Do you look low risk and defenceless? Tick. Are you not paying attention to things around you? Tick.
You were ‘interviewed’ by the criminal. You passed. You’ve been chosen. Your body language, presence and situational awareness let you down or didn’t work on this occasion.
The predatory criminal may often need to close the distance between himself and you, unless he can appear from cover. This is the critical time period for you to act within.
There are some ground rules that you need to know and prepare for.
Firstly, never believe anything that is said to you - and never relax your guard. The request for time, money, directions or whatever can be stated (and denied) at a distance.
Apply a 21-feet proxemics rule here; message verbally and with gestures that this is the distance you want the stranger to stay at. He needs to be at 3-5 feet to reach and at 6 feet he will at least need to make a big step to reach you. Don’t permit this.
Pay attention to what’s around you, look directly at him, then around you, not only to evaluate if he’s part of a group but also to signal that you are alert, aware and a ‘player’ to be reckoned with, not an easy target. Move to keep the distance if needed.
Secondly, remain calm and resolute. The less you look like a victim at this stage, the greater the chance to avoid becoming one. If you’re asked for something (‘Do you have the time? Do you have a match?’), do not apologise and do not give a wordy reply. You are being sized up as victim. Looking shyly away will tell the predator that you are easily dominated. Walking faster away will tell him the same - but can also result in a conclusion that you are not worth chasing (better to just run in this case). Turning full on to face the criminal will tell him that you can be easily manipulated by words. Just looking over your shoulder whilst moving away in a similar speed and with hands ready to act, may render a conclusion that you are not worth the trouble pursuing.
Criminals check your hands; if you go to your watch/matches, you appear helpless and compliant. If you do the same, looking all over your body for any item, you give the same impression.
If you keep your hands up and available, but not complying, looking at the potential criminal, resolutely stating a simple ‘No’ or not saying anything at all, whilst not slowing down - and scanning the area - you appear to be someone aware, alert and aggressive enough maybe not worth the effort and risk. Do not engage in a conversation. Do not explain yourself. Don’t debate any replies. Once you’ve set your (no conversation) boundary, you need to stick with it. If not you’re compromised - and weaker.
Thirdly, this is not a monkey dance. Monkey dancers do not initiate the conversation asking you for a favour - that’s not how domination plays start. Predatory criminals do. If this ‘interview’ happens away from people, especially at night, or in a secluded location - your alert level should be red. This level of alert will justify the risk of offending the innocent; walking on by, not replying or delivering a curt refusal is your investment in your personal safety. If you need to, reply back with a resolute ‘don’t get close’ or ‘don’t touch me’, however once these boundaries are set, you will need to physically defend them if they are broken, otherwise they will not be seen as real.
Some people can effectively play ‘mad’ or ‘crazy’, talking loudly and nonsensically to themselves (or even better, to someone imaginary), making gestures and noises, staring around. Unbalanced people are not good victims. They don’t tend to be wealthy or carry much money and their behaviour is highly unpredictable. You can be theatrical here.
Remember, when facing human cockroaches in the dark or human monkeys on their dance floor; as the saying goes:
Presence and body language is priceless. Words and how you state them is priceless.
For everything else, if it doesn't work, there’s Krav Maga.
(Article based on teaching advice on criminal psychology and victim behaviour from our classes and online library).