ARTICLE | MANAGING YOUR VOICE | by Orjan Pettersen
The lowest level of force you can apply in any self defence situation - even those where you don’t even know yet that you’re managing a defensive action - is your presence; essentially your expressed body language and posture.
Whether you realise it or not, you can be picked as a victim of a criminal, the mugger as much as the murderer, based on your behavioural appearance.
Looking like easy prey, either because you appear timid, shy or weak, or just unaware or distracted through your body language, can be the trigger to select you as the next victim.
After all, criminals manage risk too - and picking low risk ‘jobs’ with easy returns are no different to other professions.
On the other end of the force spectrum is physical self defence action, ranging up to lethal force in the most extreme case.
Associated with both ends of the spectrum, whether just using presence or raw physicality, there’s another key skill for self defence practitioners to train and master.
How you speak can be - as soon as your body language is supplemented with the sound of your spoken word - a decisive factor in whether your presence is a continued deterrent to potential violence or not.
Your style, tone, pitch and volume of speaking can either confirm your appearance as a hard and difficult victim - or condemn you as a fake outward tough guy (or girl), but an inward easy picking to a hardened criminal or someone looking for an easy victim to bully.
For example, a high-pitch, frantic voice will have great difficulty in conveying authority, even if your body posture is that of a controlled and in-charge human being.
A rapid-fire manner of speaking will not make you appear cool, calm and collected, however measured, calm and in-control you want to be perceived through your posture.
Taking charge and training your voice is a key accompaniment to your self defence skills. It must always be congruent, a matching companion, to your presence and physicality.
Let’s look at some of the essentials you must master.
STYLE is something personal to you - and is a manner of speaking you’ve learned to develop as you’ve programmed your linguistics since childhood.
It can be hard to overcome, as it’s ingrained with your personality and character. Nevertheless, just like any actor who can put on a persona for a role, your self defence theatrical skills can be adapted to match your needs.
Want to be calming and deescalating? It demands a certain style; calm, reassuring and lower-speed. Want to be seen to be authoritative? Well, now it’s about projection, collected delivery and confidence.
RATE is the speed by which you deliver words. The brain absorbs words at a similar rate to that your your own speed of speaking.
What is the importance of this? If you want to convey something in a self defence confrontation, unless you’ve already established the rate by which the potential attacker speaks and can match it (and let’s face it, it’s probably not first on your list of priorities in that moment), your words will be lost if they’re spoken at too fast a rate.
Speak slower. This is associated with calmness, control and confidence anyway - everything you want to display, whether deescalating or wanting to be seen as hard prey to get.
Higher rate of speech indicate out of control emotions, possibly fear, insecurity or loss of confidence.
TONE and PITCH show further emotions on display. Anger, fear and stress are expressed through these. Think about how you can detect nuances in negative emotions from someone in your daily life. The criminal or wannabe bully is no different. They can interpret your level of negativity based on the same nuances of tone and pitch. That’s not what you want to message if your signal should be ‘Don’t mess with me, I’m not worth it. Move on’.
Fail here and the universal message is clear; it’s ‘fear’.
Fear is a consequence of insecurity. Insecurity is a result of your (lack of) ability to defend yourself. The subconscious mind of the criminal will read it only one way; you’re an easy target.
Work on speaking clearly, calmly, slowly and in a low-pitch. This is how authority sounds.
VOLUME is a key ingredient on two fronts. Firstly, there’s no point in getting the other factors spot on if your voice cannot be heard by the intended recipient. Secondly, if you want back-up testimonies in any post-fight legal follow-up, you need to reach any more distant witnesses to what just happened.
Always project your voice beyond the person your words are aimed at. You can practice this in your daily life, every day, too. If there are potential witnesses to any conflict, even if these are potentially unseen beyond corners or barriers, aim your voice at them.
This is a skill you need to master, even if you’re naturally shy and timid. Practice the theatrics of it. When you do so, you’ll also working on rewiring your brain to the authority and confidence a loud and clear voice naturally carries.
It’s a win-win for you. Personally, as well as professionally, beyond any self defence application.
Self defence is naturally enhanced by your use of voice when it’s applied correctly - and destroyed, as least as a preventative measure - when done incongruently to the messaging you want the criminal or bully to have.
Practice your voice daily. Make it match the signals you want to give. Record yourself or get unbiased feedback. Apply it in scenarios in your self defence classes.
It should be naturally in your arsenal of fighting techniques, as it’s part of your first level of defence and your Krav Maga personality.
Master it. Make it part of your armour. It’s the expression of the character Krav Maga created you to be.