ARTICLE | HOW TO AVOID THE MONKEY DANCE | by Orjan Pettersen
Most violence is social, not predatory.
What does this mean? Statistically speaking, violent human conflict is much less likely to be the serial killer, the rapist or the deranged axe murderer than someone who threatens or attacks you in a social context.
A social context is where the violence occurs as a result of a confrontation over status, ego and perceived territorial or power ownership.
In the UK, crime statistics show most killings of men are conducted by a stranger in an away-from-home social setting. With women it’s in the home, by someone familiar, often a spouse or partner, but often in the context of domestic violence, in a social setting (e.g. it is done to exert control, driven by ego, pride and power).
Status, ego and territorial disputes - the latter being perceived ownership of places or people - is a particular catalyst to violence with younger men, exponentially more likely when fuelled by alcohol and in the presence of similar aged females.
An audience is generally required in social violence. There’s no need to defend anything, or ‘protect’ an ego, if there are no one there to witness it, right?
This is why drinking establishments or similar settings are prime venues for social violence. All the ingredients; the demographics, the gender mix, the witnesses and the lubrication are present and ready to be set alight in the right, or should that be ‘wrong’ circumstances.
This article looks at some of the tactics you can apply to avoid the monkey dance, or the prelude to social violence in such settings, should you be the innocent target of it, or you realise you’ve been acting foolishly and want to extract yourself from further conflict. It is not applicable to social violence in the home, by a controlling partner, which is based on other dynamics and often demand other responses.
The first (and best) strategy is just to leave the situation. If you can apologise and say ‘’I’m sorry that...’ and have it accepted, you may also prevent future conflict arising should you encounter the same party again.
If you’re marginally at fault, such as after bumping into someone, but the response is exaggerated, the easiest way to avoid the monkey dance is to graciously bow out of it. An apology, maybe even accompanied with an offer to replace a slightly spilled drink, should avert anyone but those hellbent on an aggressive encounter that evening.
Another avenue is to create a diversion. ‘What are you looking at?!’ can be met with ‘Sorry, mate, I was just checking out (x, y or z) behind you. Wasn’t looking at you. Sorry to inconvenience you’.
A clever road to deescalation is to put the aggressor into a position of having to teach or show you something. This is a harder place to continue a confrontation from, but it requires smart humility from you. The ‘You’re in my regular seat, move!’ or ‘Why are you looking at me?!’ can be flipped into teaching opportunities by you through intelligent conversation management. ‘Sorry, I didn’t know the rules of this place. Can you educate me what they are?’ or ‘I was just admiring your jacket/jeans/top, where did you get it, it’s really cool’ would be a far more deescalating response than ‘So what’ or ‘I’ll sit (or look) where I want to’, although you’ll be in your rights to do just that.
Another possibility is to include yourself, at least by nature or appearance, from the groups that are often excluded from the monkey dance. (But exceptions happen, especially with more twisted, mentally confused or intoxicated people). Social violence mostly happens between people loosely belonging to the same social group, mostly younger men. Openly gay men are often not brought into it. Women and children are also excluded, so are the mentally ill. Being older or ‘more mature’ is often also a barrier. These groups are not the ‘trophies’ a successful monkey dance is all about.
If you want to play on these exclusion groups, an easy option if the aggressor is younger than you is to work on your (slightly) older age - but you must do this in a sincere way. ‘Young man, you’re a tough guy. I’m old. You’ll beat me hands down. I have no quarrel with you’. Or, loudly’ We aren’t going to fight. None of us are kids in the playground’, bringing societal pressure onto the aggressor. You can even offer advice. ‘Are you looking to impress the young lady/ladies over there? Want some advice from an older guy? Just go over and say hello. They’ll love it. Been there. It works’.
Another strategy is to ignore at first. If the opponent makes a move with the monkey dance, most likely verbal, just don’t respond in order to de-escalate. Turn into your own conversation (but keep your peripheral vision on the aggressor). He will need to respond, which may not happen, or if it does, looks silly. If at this point it happens, just switch your attention back and ask ‘Did you have a question?’, making the person think and engage the brain off the monkey dance script. Respond unemotionally, then use one of the other strategies.
The monkey dance, and the social violence accompanied with it, is one of the ‘easier’ defences you can apply in Krav Maga - but as with all ‘techniques’ it requires a bit of practice and preparation to get right.
It may not be instinctive to your personality, nor the position you may unjustifiably find yourself in. The key question you always need to remember is: ‘Fighting risks life and limbs. Are my life and limbs at risk here?’
If the answer is No, your better self defence is probably self-control, intelligence and an apology. You will benefit from practicing your emotive state, voice and posture in your mind beforehand, just like you practice movement and strikes in techniques and strikes.
It’s all part of your self defence arsenal.