Street and Surrounding Awareness and Self Defense

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Updated: November 5, 2016

knockoutgame With all of the “knock out games” being played out on the nightly news, I have been asked to write about street and surrounding awareness and self-defense. Every day I travel to and from New York City on trains, subways and just walking the streets. Every night and early morning I watch the news and see where people are getting slashed with a knife, knocked out by someone doing the knock out game, others getting sexually molested, raped and murdered, shot. I am always on guard. Many experts tend to educate you to different levels of alert as it would apply to your street  and surrounding awareness. So, I ask myself, how do I maintain a demeanor or aura that would discourage most would be attackers as I go about my daily business. Trust me when I tell you it starts first thing every morning and the last thing before I go to bed. Yea, yea, yea, I know you are thinking this takes too much mental energy. The truth is, if you know your shit, it isn’t that difficult, time consuming or stressful. It’s just a matter of knowing what is right.

I relate a lot of my awareness to going to a parachutist jump master school. Over the first few weeks, all you do is look for correctness to a point that if something is incorrect, it just jumps right out at you. In other words, most people go through life looking for problems, I go through life looking for correctness. In this way if something doesn’t seem right, I promise you, it will jump right out at you like a big red flag. Basically, what I’m saying is you don’t have to look for dangerous people, places or scenarios if you know what safe looks like and feels like. When was the last time you ever saturated yourself with a safe environment as a training mechanism? Don’t get me wrong there are always exceptions when it comes to trusted friends and family. So, we have to learn what safe is, including friendly, snake charming gestures and actions. distractRemember nothing is free. Like my step father used to say all the time, “Beware of Greeks bearing gifts”. I think the most difficult thing in the world to do is to trust. Did you ever stop to ask a victim if a sexual of violent crime if they trusted their attacker or environment? If you had a nickel for every time you heard a victim say, “I can’t believe it, I trusted him or her so much” or “I’ve been down that street or alleyway, so many times. Maybe you should re-evaluate your trust sensors and get real and go with your gut. If someone says “trust me” DON’T!  Knowing your shit: How, when and where do we learn about trust and correctness? You want to know the sucky part about all of this? I’ll tell you. Normally through getting burned. You know the old aged adage of, you got to get burned to learn. This is predominately true for most. As kids, we don’t listen to our parents, we ignore or skate around the rules taking short cuts or take the path of least resistance, continuously thinking we know what’s best for us. I’ll tell you all from firsthand experience, I have been burned and sometimes 2 or 3 times before I start to get it. We are all too quick to write off a bad or negative experience as a part of life, just the way it is and continue to walk through life with blinders on believing it can’t happen to me or I’ve been there. This is total bullshit and would imply you are suddenly a mind reader or swami. It’s like dealing with pain, I could have, would have, should have attitude that ultimately leads us to the pits. You ever hear about the tough guy, bully type that says when he gets hurt he blacks out, can’t remember, ignores the pain or just goes crazy. I call bullshit. If you hit a bully in the shin with an axe handle, you will find he pretty much is like the rest of us, he just hasn’t been put in his place yet. Oh, I get the fact that you may not remember everything, that’s only because win or lose you were inexperienced and scared shitless. You survived without a real or viable plan of action which, without training or practice you honestly will never have a complete memory. Even the toughest and most durable of us will have a momentary lapse of cognitive processing in the first split second of violent impact or assault. There will always be a gap at that second and a door of survivability will open. You may only have a split second to defend yourself. This split second can only be taken advantage of with training. After all the only person you can truly trust 100% of the time is yourself.

When it comes to self-defense, street and surrounding awareness, you cannot be scared to react. Something as simple as a finger to the eye, a scream or bite could get you out of a jam. Most people are afraid to hurt someone else and will hesitate or even if you execute a technique, it may be without commitment. I term the lifesaving defense commitment “Bad Intention”. How do we close the gap between “correctness & bad intention? On the surface, bad intention would imply there is no such thing as correctness. To me this is easily understandable I always default to “Perfect is imperfect”. Let’s start out by accepting part of everything correct is imperfect. This is the world you live in. In a correct scenario, in my opinion it would be correct to state, the possibility of becoming a victim, is part of this confusing but correct environment we live in every day. So, you start by believing and trusting you can become a victim.

sideofbeef    Back to being scared to react, I have asked totally untrained people to cut a 20-pound piece of beef as if their life depended on cutting into a real person. By no surprise almost all of them upon their first attempt did not even make contact with the meat with a full swing. After a few failed attempts and very little coaching within a minute, each of them were making serious cuts, stabs and slashes as if they were kids with no trained mental inhibition holding them back. This is part of the solution to become trusting of you own ability to survive. The Chinese say think like a child. When you are younger you don’t have all that clutter in your head so you are open to trying things without much thought but as adults we accumulate that clutter that cause hesitancy.  How does this happen? You can start by identifying and protecting your personal space. What is your personal space? In major cities and most European countries, it is difficult to define or identify personal space and it’s way too easy to get close to someone and most of the time the potential or intended victim is totally clueless. I would tell you no matter how far away from yourself you are looking and scanning with your eyes, I would consider my personal space starts at about 10 feet away from me in any direction. I train myself for hyper-vigilance to be ever alert and on guard within a 10-foot circumference with me being the center of that 10’. This is street and surrounding awareness. Don’t take defending yourself personal. In fact, keep it very non-personal. If I look up while I’m walking down the street and see someone walking directly at me I will take a side step if necessary. I will also get a little forward lean to my step and tense up a little and brace for impact in the event something should occur, that way not getting thrown off balance. This is easy to train and practice with a friend. In fact, as kids we are always bumping shoulders with each other like a game. This is part of how we learn from a very young age. Is it political correctness as an adult to let people walk all over you? Seems this is the way we are being conditioned as a nation to “DROP OUR GUARD” FOR POLITICAL CORRECTNESS”. I would suggest not dropping your guard and become a victim, a lamb or like lemming to the sea. Make survival all about yourself. Trust if you can’t take care of yourself you can’t take care of anyone else. When you are walking the streets, be ferocious, put some pep in your step, walk with a purpose, make eye contact and never surrender your pride for political correctness. For you guys, it’s okay to step aside and be a gentleman. When you are confident you can do these things.

James “Smokey” West”

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