An Introduction To Child Safety – Kelee Arrowsmith



Not sure how to start talking to your child about Safety? Here is a simple way to start. Let your child draw him/herself and then add their Personal Safety tools. Add as many as you can think of and discuss each one. Remember that YOU are your child’s best safety instructor.


Keeping secrets: No-one is allowed to tell your child to keep secrets. A paedophile will use secrets to try to drive a wedge between you and your child

Personal space: Teach them about personal space by talking about it in different ways. For example when they go to the bathroom, they close the door to create personal space. Mention it whenever they go into some kind of personal space.

Good touching / bad touching: Areas covered by swimming costume (bathing suit) – no one is allowed to touch them there and they should never touch anyone anywhere that is covered by their costume.

No-one has the right to make your child feel uncomfortable:  Paedophiles often start with tickling or playing. Teach your child to walk away and say “don’t do that to me please”.

Safety Password: Next time you talk to your child about safety, come up with a safety password and you can use when someone goes to pick you child up from school, sport, etc.

REMEMBER that simply telling your child is not good enough – you need to tell them regularly and especially important, you need to roll play different scenarios with them

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Dimorphism Matters – Garry Smith and Jayne Wharf

Jayne Wharf and Garry Smith are editors of Conflict Manager magazine and directors of the Conflict Research Group International. We are both senior instructors in Ju Jitsu, Jayne is currently training in preparation for the 3rd dan grading and Garry his 4th Dan. We both teach realistic self defence but from very different positions, literally.

Jayne stands 5’2½” tall and Garry is 5’9”, she weighs 8st, he just under 15st. We regularly grapple, spar, brawl and ground-fight together and with others, it is what we like to do, but mostly we train and teach together. Difference in size due to dimorphism matters, we need to take it into account when we train. Sexual dimorphism is the condition where the two sexes of the same species exhibit different characteristics beyond the differences in their sexual organs. Size, muscle mass etc. Both of which will influence the outcome of a violent conflict.

Recently we have see certain ground-fighting techniques, pretty technical ones, being promoted as good self defence for women. They are not, they are unrealistic, easy to counter and will not work against a committed attacker who knows what they are doing. We know, we train this all the time. When we were doing a demo for our juniors last week, I thought we were just showing a few moves nice and steady, so it was a big surprise when Jayne came at me like a hell-cat. It took me a good minute but I eventually got on top of her and pinned her. We were both red faced and puffing and panting. We did it again a few days later for a different group of juniors, similar outcome but this time she got her guard in so tight on my ribs I involuntary farted, I quickly tried to blame Jayne but the kids knew it was me. Red faced again.

So in light of seeing BS techniques peddled as good SD, and what we do when we train, we decided to have the following conversation.

In our training session last Monday we had a short, but intense, ground-fight on the mat. The purpose was, if I remember rightly, for you to show the juniors that you need to fight aggressively against a bigger stronger opponent, not that you warned me. We have trained together for some time now, given the imbalance in size and weight why do you keep doing this?

JW: You’d like me to say it’s because I like it … haha. The purpose on Monday was as you say to show the juniors that no matter if you’re the underdog (in particular the girls) you still have a chance if you have heart. Your brain may well be telling you you can’t win, but you have to push that aside and at least try, don’t give in before it all kicks off.

Why do I keep doing it? For me personally it’s extremely rewarding. I get an opportunity to test what does & doesn’t work on someone who is bigger, stronger (dare I say it without offending you?) heavier than I am. I’m taking about the ‘cheats’ here because there is no way I would win if I played ‘fair’, so I don’t. I have to use my whole body to create the tiniest amount of movement, but with every small adjustment I may be gaining a long term advantage. I can promise you by the end I am absolutely exhausted, but this is the second reward, with each bout I not only gain information I also improve in fitness and strength.  

GS: As I said earlier I am almost twice your weight, No offence at all, it is as it is. OK so each fight allows you to ‘probe’ more is that fair?


JW: Yes, no two bouts are the same. I always have to push aside the ‘I’m going to lose mentality at the start. I pretty much take it a stage at a time pulling on what worked last time where I can. I don’t forget the stuff that didn’t work, I will have thought about ‘why’ these didn’t work probably on a dog walk. If I have a possible ‘solution’ I may try that. I can’t plan ahead as such but I can prepare. Sometimes I have ‘something’ in mind that I want to try & I will attempt to manoeuvrer my way into it. I do listen to my mentors & will always try out their suggestions even if initially I think it’s not appropriate for me; I’ve been proven wrong many times…so again another lesson – don’t assume you know better…that’s good coming from someone who as you know knows everything … hahaha.

GS: OK so what is it like fighting as a small woman against a nasty violent bigger man?

JW: I don’t know what that’s like now. Fighting against you is extremely awkward, but I know

you, you’re not the ‘nasty violent bigger man’. I met the nasty violent bigger man years gone by & I promise you I would annihilate the chap I have in mind if I were to meet him today. So for me all the training over the past few years is working for me. Fighting against you & the other fellas in the club is rewarding….smelly, sweaty, exhausting, but rewarding.

GS:that is good to know. The thing is we know we train within safe parameters. We cannot bite, gouge etc. We do dirty fighting drills but I struggle as a man who would just go brute punching, to use such tactics, how can we do these things, should we?

JW: I personally have no desire to inflict injury on others or myself in the name of self defence, so I would say ‘no, we shouldn’t’. As a club we already go way further many other as you know & I am happy with that level. If you want to encourage women to learn (as I think we should) then that’s not the way to go, we don’t want to frighten them away before they even try. I have also seen that for those who want to go that extra mile likewise we will make it happen; I’m thinking of you & Johnny here.

GS: Well you surprise me a little here, You are quite aggressive in your application of technique in Ju Jitsu and very aggressive in our Self Defence training to the extent that I am incredibly proud of you if that is not patronising.  For the reader Johnny and I have both had more than a few street/pub fights (with others) and we like to go for it a bit when we glove up.

JW: What can I say is I like to show heart. I’m in training for my 3rd Dan and know that I need to exhibit the techniques above the expected standard…that and perhaps I just like to occasionally inflict some pain on yourself & Lee, John…well all of your really.

GS: I think you do that and achieve a gold standard, to be honest there are times your face looks like you want to kill. Now do not play that down. Most women cannot do that. Sometimes I look up after you throw me and you are raining in punches and knees etc., all pulled of course, and it is scary. What are you thinking when you do this?

JW: Honestly? Not much other than … it’s hard to put into words. There’s a mixture of as a trained Ju Jitsuka wanting to show a fantastic ‘finish’, as a coach wanting the students to see how ‘we’ want them to exhibit a technique and then …this is where I go dark…. What I want to do to past & any potential attackers.  

GS: That is interesting, as instructors we demonstrate technique after technique, Recently we have been showing people full mount, side mount etc. as part of our ground work.  When we demo fights it is fun and you come at me full on. As you said I think that is excellent for the kids, especially the girls to see. WE want them to cheat, how do you feel about videos that show complicated technical chokes?

JW: First things first, I ain’t full on (haha) I go the extra mile but I have more in the tank trust me. Videos showing complicated technical chokes…it depends on who’s showing them, also the accessibility and target audience. These should not be out in the general public domain. They need governance.

GS: LOL so that is typical of you, not full on, well that will be sorted where you can go full on, I love fighting Johnny, I love fighting anyone in sporting fashion or for real, I love fighting you because you really go for it, so full on next time then. Thing is when we talked the other night you mentioned lack of feedback which I think was a fair criticism. Please explain to the reader what would help. For example whilst ground fighting the other night you used your knuckles in my left ribs, just digging them in on the blind-side. I can tolerate that but if you did it harder maybe it would shift me.  

JW: Yes, so I guess the point is just that. If I ‘try’ something I am always (I know you don’t believe this) conscious of not going over the top. Look I grew up with two hairy arsed brothers who took great delight on one hand being my protectors (and still do) then on the other tormenting me & hanging my upside down by one leg over the bannisters. So I’m heavy handed. What is helpful to me is to work out when & how I do need to push a bit further, make my response / counter stronger to have an effect on someone who is heavier, stronger, more stubborn etc etc. That said I still appreciate someone who is adrenalised who will not necessarily respond in the same way.

GS: OK you know how much I respect you as one of my senior instructors, my favourite training partner and dog walking companion. One last question, do you think you can take me?

JW: My brain says ‘no’. This is not just based on a feel, this is based on the fact you are in my opinion a fighting machine, trained & condition over many years. I may well be a tom–boy, but I’m not to that ‘gold’ standard. What I can say is it would be messy. I may not win, but I’d go down fighting.

GS: I think that is why I hold you in the deepest respect. I think you would  extract a great deal out of me so it would be a poor victory if we fought for real. We need to now explore how we can push the boundaries. You may be little but you always punch well above your weight. I think with the right circumstances and conditions you could wipe the floor with anyone, me included.

So, for once, I think you are wrong, you have the attitude, the aggression and the ability. I know, I have the ability to drop bigger, better guys, been there and done it many times. That is why I know you, given the window of opportunity, can cream me if you get that sweet shot in. You may be little but you are determined.

We need to work on some drills that take us further. You need to help me shape them.

By the way we have a no holds barred fight owing 😉 Let’s see what you have. Soon.

JW: Hummm now you mention it I did drop Lee (technical knockout apparently), doubled Pete over & made Bill see stars! I have made some great friends and learnt many things, not all self defence related, during the years spent training. I think a lot of women would benefit from just experiencing a tiny piece of what I/we as a club have experienced. There’s a lot they can learn and fun to be had alongside the calorie burning they desire.   

“Every woman should learn this choke.”- Well, should they really? – Erik Kondo

“Every woman should learn this choke.”– Well, should they really? The above statement is an opinion about the widely viewed “Gracie Choke” technique video to be used against sexual assault. It seems that a number of people agree with it. On the surface, it sounds reasonable. After all, why not? What harm does knowing something create? (Full video here)

But let’s deconstruct it and see what that statement really means.

“Every woman” really means “most physically fit women”. For example, women with only one functioning hand, or have limited grip strength, or are very young or are old are not the ones being considered here. A “choke” is a technique. “to learn” really means “to be able to learn and execute” “should” really means “because it will work” AND there is a reasonable possibility of needing to use it.

Therefore, we now have the opinion statement expand to say:

“So and So thinks that most physically fit women are able to learn and execute this technique AND there is a reasonable likelihood that they will be in a situation where they need to make it “work” AND it will “work” against most types of male attackers.”

When it comes to a physical self-defense technique, what does it mean to “work”?

In my opinion, the most useful criteria come from Rory Miller’s Golden Move, where the Move has the effect of:

  • Damaging your attacker
  • Weakening his or her position.
  • Strengthening your position.
  • Protects you from damage.

A technique is a sequential set of one or more moves. Therefore, a technique that “works”, has a high probability of meeting ALL of the above criteria.

  1. If it causes your attacker to be unconscious or dead, you have damaged him or her.
  2. If your attacker is unconscious or dead, you have weakened his or her position.
  3. If your attacker is unconscious or dead, you have strengthened your position.
  4. If your attacker is unconscious or dead, you are now protected from damage from him.

At first glance, it seems like the choke, meets all the criteria for “working”. But, not so fast, there is one more element to consider. That element is time.

According to the extended video it takes “6 seconds” for the technique to be effective. Is that an average of 6 seconds, where some people execute it in two or three seconds and others in 10 or 15 seconds against the “average” attacker? Or is that the minimum time it takes for a skilled practitioner to make it “work”?

Given that it is highly unlikely a scientific choke study was done to determine an “average” of 6 seconds. Most likely, it takes a skilled practitioner 6 seconds, and a less skilled practitioner longer. Is that 8, 10, 15 seconds or more? I don’t know, and my guess is that nobody else knows either.

The reason the time lag is important is because of what could be happening while the woman’s hands and legs are occupied with the technique and she is waiting for it to take effect. Assuming that the close body position doesn’t allow the attacker to engage in power full punching, it still does allow for the possibility that the attacker might be able to use his free body parts to:

  • Gouge and claw the woman’s eyes.
  • Crush her wind pipe.
  • Squeeze and choke her along neck with this hand(s).
  • Drive this thumb or fingers into pressure points in her neck.
  • Rip off her ear.
  • Drive his finger into her ear canal.
  • Drive his fingers into her nose.
  • Bite her, rip, and tear her flesh.
  • Dig his knuckles deep into her ribs.
  • Drive his head into her face.
  • Drive his forearm into and across her face and or throat.
  • Utilize short whip-like facial strikes.
  • Reach and deploy a concealed weapon such as a knife or other sharp object.
  • And other types of related of close quarter infighting attacks.

All of this could be done in the time it takes for the technique to take effect. In reality, during this time period, it is probable that

  • The attacker is not damaged.
  • The attacker’s position is not worsened.
  • The woman’s position is not improved.
  • he woman is taking damage.

In this case, the technique meets all the requirements for being the exact opposite of a Golden Technique.

When someone is being choked in a real life confrontation, they have no idea of whether the choker is only trying to knock them unconscious, or is actually trying to kill them. Therefore, someone who is being choked is likely to be “fighting back” for his life and will use any and all means available.

Choking requires taking away excess space which means getting very tight to the person and limiting his movements. The woman must cease her escape response and focus all her efforts on attacking. That requires a mental switch from fear based “get away” actions to anger based “attack the attacker” actions. In the situation envisioned, the attacker now no longer has the option to willingly stop his attack and disengage. He is literally being forced to stay and engage in what could be a life or death struggle.

If the attacker’s actions cause the woman’s choke to fail, she is now positioned very close to him. And she has likely expended a great deal of energy in trying to make it “work”. What is her next option? Instruction of a technique is incomplete without addressing what to do if it fails.

The next question is “How exactly is this technique learned?” This is a physical technique that requires repeated physical practice to learn. The student has to learn proper hand position and wrist extension. She needs to understand the proper angles of to apply force. Some people will take much longer than others. But everyone will need lots of practice time.

Regardless, to become reliably proficient, she would have to practice it against a wide variety of men of different weight, neck sizes, and musculature. Fat necks, thin necks, skinny necks, muscular necks, sweaty necks, heavy shirts, light shirts, tight shirts, loose shirts, sweat shirts, dress shirts are some of the types of men and clothes she needs to practice against and with (and what about a person with no shirt?).

She also needs to be able to execute the technique in the scenario intended for its use. Since the choke is promoted as a defense against a stranger rape attack, for realism, she needs to practice with men who she is not psychologically comfortable training with. Men who can create the real fear and feeling sexually assaulting her. These men would have to violently force themselves on top of her and between her legs in order to create both the physical position and the mental stress required to realistically “practice” execution and condition her emotionally.

They would also have to resist in manner consistent with someone who thinks he is being choked to death. And as with many types of learned physical techniques, she would need to periodically refresh her skills for her entire life in order to not forget how to do it.

The final issue is whether this type of practice will cause her to fixate on a type of attack that is both statistically unlikely to happen and also doesn’t represent the type of sexual assault that usually does happen to women. The vast majority of women are assaulted by men they know or are in some type of a relationship with. They don’t actively resist, and they don’t report the crime. And in many cases alcohol is involved which impairs their ability to execute physical defense.

How will the choke be used in these circumstances? Remember, any choke comes with the possibly of causing death. In order to choke someone, you must be willing to take the chance you will inadvertently kill him or her. That reality requires a certain mindset and emotional state to use it in a conflict.

On the flip side there ARE a number of benefits from learning this choke that do apply to physical self-defense. But that doesn’t mean “every woman should learn this choke”. It means that some women who choose to engaging in this type of training may benefit in the following manner if they train realistically.

  1. They would realize that just like women, men vary greatly in not only in body type, but in willingness to endure pain and willingness to continue to attack when faced with determined resistance. This fact may seem obvious, but how would a woman who never engaged in head to head competition with a variety of men know that? Particularly, a woman who believes (has been repeatedly told) that all men are stronger than all women?
  2. They would realize that the manner in which this choke can be broken provides the key to counter-attacking in a real life sexual assault. All the nasty infighting tactics mentioned previously are effective ones for women to use if they find themselves in this type of situation. By understanding what would cause themselves to disengage their own chokes, they may understand what may cause their attackers to disengage their attacks.
  3. They would realize that what they have been told about learning specific self-defense techniques to deal with specific types of attacks is unlikely to help them. For most people, skilled based physical techniques are likely to fail under stress. But instinctive actions that have been conditioned under stress based scenarios have a higher likelihood of success.
  4. They would benefit from learning physical skills that require a combination of flexibility, strength, coordination, timing, and confidence. Skill building is generally very beneficial even if you never apply the skill in real life.
  5. As long as they know the practical limitations of their techniques, they will benefit from the learning process itself. Specifically, learning when NOT to attempt to use certain techniques is a valuable part of this learning process.
  6. Assuming realistic practice, they will develop the mindset and mental conditioning needed to have a greater chance of successfully resist an assault.
  7. They will be in a supportive environment with other women and men who all have the same goal of improving their ability to successfully defend themselves from a physical attack.

When it comes to whether or not “every woman (or man) should do something”. It is important to recognize who else benefits from what they all “should be doing”. Is it all women as implied, or is it really someone or something else?

There is a big difference between something being beneficial for SOME women and ALL women, because something that may help some women in some situations may also hurt other women in other situations.



Look Out! Behind You!

Sadly, we don’t have eyes in the backs of our heads, which is why it’s a good idea to try and avoid zoning out during certain daily activities. When we keep our heads moving our peripheral vision does its job. Zoning out is necessary, but moments should be chosen. It can’t hurt any of us to be a bit more present at times.

When practicing any form of self defense be sure to avail yourself of your peripheral vision. Tunnel vision blinds you to the accomplice. If you always assume there will be more than one, you will never be surprised. The guy in front of you or in your line of site or talking to you is not always your biggest problem. Criminals often work in tandem, so assume there are at least two, if not three.

The hard part, of course is remembering to move your head while you are diving out of the way of the car that is bearing down on you.

Humans are pack animals so thinking in these terms can only help you on many levels. Adverse family and office conditions can also be disarmed through awareness of group dynamics.

(For in depth analyses of Group Dynamics the best information I know of can be found on the site, Marc MacYoung’s blog at and in Rory Miller’s book Conflict Communications.)

The Weapons Complication

Another good assumption to make is that at least one weapon will be involved in any planned attack. Hopefully it is yours. That said, it is better for you to choose where you get cut than for your attacker to choose. Those are the hard facts. If you have to make a run for it or commit to an attack, the back of your hand or your body is better than the front.

Weapons Tracking

If a weapon is involved and it is moving (and you can’t simply avoid it or run), track the movement from your attacker’s shoulder to his elbow rather than fixating on the hand. It is a matter of physics that the hand will be much faster than the shoulder and therefore more difficult to track. Stay to his side rather than his center and try to stop the shoulder and elbow, damage the limb, yank the arm to make him release the weapon, slam the weapon arm into a wall or the floor, etc.

Shoot The Gap

There are ways to escape from a group of people if you find yourself at the center, and it involves something called Shooting The Gap. You find the weakest gap in the group, usually around hip level between the two guys paying the least attention, make yourself as small as possible, often by turning to the side, and dive through the hole with all of your speed and weight behind you.

The element of surprise is always a useful and important tool. If you can look like you aren’t about to make your escape you will fair better.

Run To Safety, Not Just Away From Danger

Once out, keep going. The hard part is to make intelligent choices under the influence of an adrenaline rush. At the very least, try not to avoid the truck and drive into the lake.

Avoid Center Mass

Try to avoid the center of your attacker’s body. His center is where he is strongest. It is where he can most easily grab you or harm you. If at all possible, stay to his side or his back. The side of the neck, base of the skull, kidneys, even back and side of the knee are better places to be and to attack than the front of the body, as a general rule.

Attack Position

In self defense classes the majority of practice takes place standing face-to-face, whereas in reality this is only one of many possible positions. Face-to-face attacks usually occur between people who are challenging each other in some way, as in a barroom brawl or a dispute, a good old fashioned mugging, or what is known in reference to gangs as an Educational Beat Down (EBD) in which a lesson is enforced. EBDs can also occur in Domestic Violence situations as in a husband (or wife) over-enforcing a house rule or demanding respect. Sometimes date rape occurs face-to-face but not always standing up, which is again how most practice is done. Since Face-to-Face attacks constitute only a portion of criminal confrontations your self defense class may be leaving out some important scenarios.

Women tend to be physically attacked in the following ways as well, according to police reports: grabbed from behind to be moved to a more private location, pushed to the ground or hit first as a warning.

(We are discussing physical positioning in this section. Remember that coercion is one of the most insidious ways to gain compliance. A criminal who threatens extreme violence against you or someone you love or threatens to expose something you have done may induce you to tie yourself up without his needing to lift a finger.)

There is no way to construct an exact replica of the type of emergency that might occur, so we are always dealing in approximations. Practicing one or even three positions over and over is counterproductive. To begin, what we need is to understand the tangled, frenetic and ever-changing nature of an attack situation and to choose a few options that can be performed from virtually any position.

Conscious Carry -Toby Cowern

One of the unexpected benefits of travelling so much to teach and train, is seeing the variety, vehemence and impact of various laws in various countries focusing on the carry (or not) of weapons and associated objects.

From the overwhelmingly strict control of firearms, knives and ‘objects that may be used as a weapon’ that are now entrenched in UK law, all the way through to ‘open carry’ of medium caliber rifles in parts of the USA and onwards to ‘special dispensations’ used in conflict regions, the application and enforcement of the law has a far reaching impact on all who are interested in their personal safety.

As you know from previous articles I have written, I am a huge believer in the concept of Every Day Carry (EDC) Namely, having a number of essential items constantly to hand as you navigate the modern day concrete jungle.

Very much tied in with this EDC ideal, is carrying the means to defend yourself. Simply put, we are currently so far up the food chain, largely because we are tool using primates. Remove the tools and we would be significantly further down the list. Acknowledging this, but respecting the local laws isn’t necessarily a mutually exclusive idea. Simply put, there will always be SOMETHING that we can carry with us to act as a ‘force multiplier’ and increase our effectiveness in an altercation.

It is down to us all to aggressively address the laws we are bound by and find the areas/items of the what and how we can carry things. Even more so for Instructors who should be ensuring they are able to accurately and comprehensively deliver this information to their students.

Simply put, the tired conversation of bemoaning what we ‘are not allowed to carry’ needs to give way to focusing on ‘what we can’ carry instead.

It is highly unlikely, in the near future, we will see reversal of any of the ‘weapons’ laws currently in place. In fact, if anything, established precedent says we will see a further ‘tightening’ of existing laws and introduction of new laws to further curtail carriage and use of various items.

That said, for clarity I’ll repeat, we need to focus on ‘what we can carry’. We have access to unprecedented amounts of information nowadays, so investigating and establishing what can be legally carried (and how) is far easier now than almost any time in our history. Once you have established what you can carry, there are some other considerations that MUST be addressed, these are:

1) Where will you carry the item?
2) How will you carry the item?
3) How much time will you commit to training with the use of the item?

Let’s expand on each of these briefly:

1) Where will you carry the item?
An item that is going to enhance our defensibility needs to be easily and quickly accessed when needed. Floating around the bottom of a bag or being in a constrictive pocket is no good. So due consideration to where on your person you are carrying needs to be given.

2) How will you carry the item?
Will it be secured (like in a pouch or holster)? Does it have fastenings or clips that need to be used? When you are accessing it will it come out facing the ‘right direction’? Does what you wear affect if and how you carry the item?

Points 1 and 2 are essential considerations to overcome the ‘Talisman Thinking’. The idea that somehow this item will protect you JUST by being carried.

3) How much time will you commit to training with the use of the item?
Once you’ve established where and how you will carry the item, you need to learn and then practice accessing, retention and use. As a rough rule of thumb, the less lethal the item the more you will need to practice use and technique, the more lethal the item the more you need to focus on articulation (WHY you carry, and why you decided to use it in an altercation) along with the other training aspects.

Finally, I would stress the importance of once you have decided to carry an item, then carry it always. Establish the routine early that as much as you pick up your keys and phone’ this item(s) are next on the list.

Individual Every Day Carry is a deeply personal decision, but as I mention in this article, regardless of laws there is always SOMETHING you can carry to help you defend yourself. If you aren’t already doing so, I recommend you start looking at your available options today…

Street harassment; boredom, reputations and FOC it! – Wendy Dorrestinj

Over the years I have read and heard all sorts of advice about how to deal with street harassment. Mostly this advice was given by a wide variety of (self defense) instructors and sometimes by self-appointed experts. Sadly, only a minority of these tips were built on solid knowledge, let alone empiric evidence.

With this blog I would like to inform you about the most common form of street harassment, the dangers and the dynamics behind it and offer you some solutions. This blog is written from a Law Enforcement perspective and based on 20 years of law enforcement experience with an academic background in policing and behavioral sciences. Although the topic “street harassment” might suggest that the blog is written for women, it is actually not. Street harassment is something that both men and women are facing on a daily basis. (Loeber, 2001) Although a blog is too short to cover all the ins and outs of youth group dynamics and how to deal with it, my goal is to offer you some easy to remember, useful rules of thumb.

The estimations of how many women at one point in their life experiences any form of street harassment differ between 50% and 90%. The percentages of men experiencing street harassment are lower; the estimation is somewhere between 30-60%. Compared to men, women are more often confronted with street harassment within a sexual context, while men are relatively more often confronted with harassment based on crime and power struggles. The common denominator for both men and women is street harassment based on “street games”.

These percentages not only depend on where the question is asked; what is perceived as harassment in one culture may be seen as “normal street behavior” in another. It also depends on the definition of street harassment. For one person, cat calling won’t be a problem, for another, it can be very intimidating. Whatever your location, cultural background or definition of harassment is, please remember; this is your life and your body and no one else’s. Nobody has the right to touch you without your permission, nobody has the right to call you names or to judge your appearance, even when this “judging” is covered by so called compliments. You have the right to set your boundaries and the right to protect your body. How to set your boundaries is part of this blog.

The sole culpability for harassment lies with the perpetrator. It is his, and not his victim’s choice to play the game, commit the crime or to start the dynamic. However, you do have a responsibility for your own wellbeing and safety. To some extend your own behavior can influence the decision of the perpetrator to (not) attack or to harass you. (Becker, 1998) I realize that this might not be the most political correct or popular sentence in this blog, but it is, simply, the truth. At the other hand, it might feel encouraging to know that the key to your own safety is in your hands and not in someone else’s. (Beyond the Split Second; Reality Based Training in High Risk Law Enforcement Operations, 2015)

For this blog I will focus on the most common form of street harassment; “street games”, a game played by male youth groups on the streets of many  western cities and villages. This form of street harassment is a calculated and instrumental form of aggression and intimidation, which means that the perpetrator starts the game with the idea that he (or they) will be the winner in this dynamic. And that is where you’re options are…

The first pillar of youth groups: Boredom/Entertainment
The first thing you have to realize when dealing with youth groups on the street is that they are bored as hell; the whole reason for hanging out on the street is to look for entertainment. Entertainment in the form of admiring each other’s new cellphones/sunglasses/shoes/latest moves/whatever. Once they’re done with the admiring part, they will be looking for some new entertainment. And that is where you come in. They will try to use you as their new form of entertainment. That is, unless you’re able to break or ignore the dynamic…

The second pillar of youth groups:  Reputation
The second thing you have to realize is that credibility, reputation and hierarchy are strongly related and that reputation is one of the most important things for youth group members. There is something to win and something to lose for the group member in the process of intimidation. Although alcohol and/or drugs will influence ones perception of risk and weakens ones inhibition (self-control), the origin of the intimidation/cat calling/harassment is still an instrumental one: entertainment and fortifying the reputation within the group. (Bond, 1997)

Street credibility is based on the individual performance (perceived toughness by group members) and their contribution to the group. Actions like cat calling and intimidation can contribute to the perceived toughness ad therefor the status within the group. However, a failed attempt to intimidate a bystander can be disastrous for one’s status. This can lead to the need to retaliate and re-establish ones position. With a second (or third) attack as a result, often with an increased level of aggression. In other words: Think twice before you engage in the street game and “out smart” the perpetrator. And especially for the male readers of this blog: don’t let your ego stand in the way between you and your safety.
(For more information about youth groups see (Dutch))

So, by now I might have confused you. In the first half of this blog I told you that you have the right to defend yourself and the right to set boundaries. In the second half of the blog I warned you to be careful and think twice before you engage in the dynamic of street games. How do those two things add up?

The answer is: FOC it!

While walking on the street, you might encounter a youth group. By now you know they are probably bored and looking for some entertainment. You decide not to be part of that entertainment. If you have the possibility to avoid direct contact with the group without being noticed, use that possibility. You need to scan for options (basically lesson 1 in krav maga) Cross the road and walk at the other side and continue your journey. However, crucial in this case is “without being noticed”. As soon as the group has you in their sight, and they see you avoiding them, you will be perceived as an easy victim. If you can’t avoid them without being “detected”, pass them. Pass them in the same way you would pass a group of senior citizens; Friendly, Open and with Confidence.

Friendly and Open means: Engage in eye contact as you would do with any other group. If it is normal in your culture to greet people when you pass them, greet them now. If it is normal to greet people with a friendly smile, give them that smile now. No eye contact, not greeting and not smiling can be perceived as either an act of aggression or an act of fear. Both can start the entertainment/reputation dynamic you don’t want. Regarding the eye contact; make eye contact in a way that is perceived as normal within the culture you’re living in. In most cultures, avoiding eye contact is a way of submissive behavior. Engaging eye contact for too long, is a sign of dominance. Again, either positions can start the entertainment (submissive)/reputation (dominance) dynamic, which you want to avoid.

Crucial in dealing with youth groups is Confidence. The good news is that you don’t have to be confident to be perceived as confident. “Fake it until you make it”, can bring you home safely. So, while approaching the group and reminding yourself to appear “friendly and open”, walk straight up, make yourself tall, shoulders straight, breath a bit more slow and deep than usual (you’re probably a bit stressed by now and this is a good way to hide it) and walk with solid, firm steps like you’re walking straight to your destination. Maintain a healthy distance between you and the group at any time. Healthy meaning; healthy for you; don’t come so close that you’re easy to grab or to kick at. This will also help you to stay out of the group dynamic; if you come to close (or even in) the group, you’ll be a part of their territory and therefor interesting to play their games with.
(For more information about body language see )

If anybody tries to engage with you or tries to pull you in their dynamic, you respond with a friendly but confident and clear response. Something in the line of “(Sorry) Am in a hurry, no time to talk”, and you continue your walk. Whether or not you start your sentence with “sorry” depends, again, on your culture. In some situations the “sorry” will be perceived as weak, in some situations the lack of the word “sorry” might be perceived as passive-aggressive.

If they approach you in a more intimidating way, you simply say “No” or “Stop … (behavior)” in a clear and confident way. Say it and mean it, and pretend that you firmly believe in it even if you don’t. You continue your route and leave the group behind. If you’re really afraid, wave at a (non-existing) friend in the crowd in the direction in which you’re going and say loud: “Hi! There you are” and walk firmly to your “friend” meanwhile scanning for possibilities and possible threats.

If the threat is getting more serious and you’re being attacked, fight like you trained in your krav maga classes; deal with the danger and run.

Sometimes a group is just looking for some serious trouble. In those cases, the rules of thumb from above don’t apply and the only safe way out is by not getting in. A clear example of a group actively looking for trouble is the group in this YouTube video. You’ll see active, wide body language, a lot of energy and the group is wide spread over the street. All signs that they’re not bored and clearly not looking for entertainment but looking for some serious trouble.

To summarize: youth groups behavior is built on 2 pillars: Boredom/Entertainment and Reputation. By acting friendly, open and confident you decrease the chance that you’ll be part of their entertainment/reputation game because you’re simply not playing along in the dynamic.

CMDR D holds an MA in Policing, an MA in behavioral Sciences and an MSc in Public Management. Additionally, D  is the only person in The Netherlands who is certified to lead (intervention) units as a bronze, silver and gold commander in both LE and firefighting operations. D is currently working on a PhD Research “Beyond the Split Second; Reality Based Training in High Risk Law Enforcement Operations”.


The Self-Defense Hand – Marc MacYoung

The Self-Defense Hand:
Assessing if what-you-are-learning works for self-defense — and why you need to do it.

“Everyone knows what something means until there’s a problem”  

Paul Spiegal
Contract Attorney

There’s a dangerous problem about both learning and teaching ‘self-defense.’ Mostly it’s about what you don’t know you don’t know.

It’s not hyperbole to say this lack will result with you in prison, the hospital, the morgue or financially destitute. (If not you, then your students.) Here’s the catch, it’s a problem that doesn’t reveal itself until you actually try to defend yourself. Think in terms of a plane with a crack in the wing you don’t see. While on the ground, nothing looks wrong and the problem doesn’t manifest. What’s going to happen if you try to fly that plane?

That’s why we’re going to have to spend some time identifying these hidden cracks before you’ll understand the fix.  Starting with how many people don’t know what self-defense means.

“But, but I’m trained in self-defense I know what it means!”

Oh yeah? Is it a subject  or an action? If it’s a subject, what’s involved? If it’s an action, what specific action and in what context? Let’s get something straight right now. You know what you’ve been taught as self-defense — usually in class. Another factor is what you have ‘researched’ and decided on your own. (I used the ‘ ‘ because much of the available material come from marketing spun sources.) Those are an understanding of the subject. That’s not the same as engaging in a violent situation with the appropriate level of force. Levels and actions to remain within the parameters of self-defense. Outside of the classroom, the range or the dojo self-defense is a little more … complicated

How do you use the term ‘self-defense?’ Is it a noun or verb?  Many people think of it as a verb. It’s a type of action they think they’ll do. (Wait, self-defensing?) Yet, self-defense is in the dictionary as a noun. The subject of self-defense becomes an identifiable ‘thing’ — as in person, place or thing  You learn self-defense. You acted in self-defense.  But subjects tend to be complex. They involve lots of different things. However, your perspective changes if you think of it as a verb. Action is a whole lot simpler. All those pesky complexities disappear. In fact, you can start calling almost any action self-defense — and give yourself permission to do so. This regardless of whether they fit inside the parameters of the subject or not. When you don’t blur self-defense to allow become both a subject and  an action, you clearly see a distinction between learning about and doing. There’s also a difference between knowing and doing. These are some of distinctions many people have lost.

That’s why we have to track it back to your root definition. Oh sure there’s the general verb/adjective definition. It runs along the lines of “defending myself from an attack.”  But when you think about it, that’s actually kind of vague.  Starting with, what do you mean by ‘attack?’ I ask because you’ll find folks sticking in caveats and spins. For example, “Self-defense is using my training to protect myself from physical and emotional attacks.”

Hang on there. Is someone using harsh language at you the same as slapping you? Is punching you the same as someone beating you? Is someone trying to punching the same as trying to shoot you?  If the answer is ‘no,’ then using the same training as a blanket response is obviously a bad idea. If the answer is ‘well they’re all attacks’ (a qualified ‘yes’)  you’re dangerously close to shooting someone for slapping you. (Or saying something that provokes someone to punch you.) Stated this way, it seems ridiculous. Obviously everyone knows that’s not what self-defense is.  Okay, so what is self-defense then? And, more importantly, how do you apply it in the real world? What are some hard and fast standards you assess self-defense by?

Not so easy is it?

This goes beyond just ‘how much force do you use?’ It goes into what makes it self-defense (legal) vs. fighting, assault, manslaughter etc. (illegal). Just so you know, this is an area where subjective interpretation can really screw you up. It goes into when you stop using force (or cross into being the aggressor).  Most people have no clear metrics or understanding about what legally constitutes self-defense, threat assessment, the sort of situation that requires it, how they can put themselves into or get out of such situations or be able to avoid excessive force.  All of which have lots to do if what you do

  1. a) even works or
  2. b) if you’re going to be arrested later.

You’re in danger if you’ve never asked yourself, “Is what I’ve been taught really about self-defense?” This especially if what you’ve been taught has been mixed with sports, self-help or a social/political agenda. I recently had the unpleasant experience of talking to a women’s self-defense instructor who freely admitted she was relying on the man being arrested in any situation. That was why they didn’t include use of force limits or legal issues in what they taught women. Instead they encouraged women to go-all-out and told them it was all ‘self-defense.’ (Hint, you can knock him down, but you can’t jump up and down on his chest in your heels. The last isn’t self-defense.) Their instruction was predicated on the idea the police would always assume the woman to be the victim and arrest the man. (Rather disturbing version of ‘equality’ eh?)

With this in mind you need to ask is, “How do I assess if my response is self-defense?”  Well, that brings us to the quality, expanse and — most of all — focus of your training. Because the answer to that question depends on if your training is teaching how to do it. Unfortunately, most of the time the answer is “No it isn’t.”

Let me explain that. You can spend a majority of your training time learning (in depth) a particular aspect, but that doesn’t mean you’re getting other — relevant — information about self-defense.  (For example, all your tactical shooting training doesn’t teach you when to shoot.) Once you begin to search for some kind of standards about what is and what isn’t self-defense is all sorts of  previously invisible information comes onto your radar.  When that happens you realize ‘acting in self-defense’ is not as simple as you thought it was.

Let me give you an example of relevant information you’re not being taught about self-defense. Tell me: Where all these attackers you are training to handle are coming from?  Well obviously, the simple answer is ‘They’re bad guys intent on hurting me.’

From an internal perspective that seems self-evident and obvious; except from an external standpoint it’s not that simple.  Starting with how do you know you’re not aggressing on him?  It’s not as black and white as you might think. Remember I used the word ‘subjective’ a little earlier? Here’s something that seriously influences it. A fellow by the name of Les Carter talks about the three core sources of anger

1) Preservation of essential needs.

2) Preservation of self-esteem and

3) Preservation of core beliefs.

While the manifestations are many, that mechanism is simple and pretty universal. You feel these are threatened, anger occurs and you act to < dramatic drum roll > defend yourself.

In case you missed it, that mechanism is the same for someone you call the ‘aggressor’ as it is for you ‘defending yourself.’  When you’re emotional, you think you’re defending yourself — even as you’re attacking. Spelling that out: When it comes to MOST violence, he thinks he’s doing exactly the same thing you think you’re doing; namely defending himself, except from you. And maybe he is because you’re so scared, hurt or angry, you are actually attacking.

That’s why it’s important to look at your actions from other than an internal perspective. You need to know if you are, in fact, aggressing against him while telling yourself it’s ‘self-defense.’  Believe me when I tell you crossing that line is a lot easier to do than you might think. Well, isn’t that awkward? Here’s the real unpleasant part, unless you know the ‘fingers’ I’m going to talk about in the next installment — and apply them — there’s a damned good chance, he’s partially correct.

Here’s the bad news, from an outside perspective you have him, any other witnesses testifying and possibly video of your participation in the creation and escalation of the conflict. That’s not self-defense. It’s a crime. In fact, this makes YOU the bad guy. Which if your so-called ‘self-defense’ training works, you’re going to get arrested. If it doesn’t work, you have other problems …

So what is self-defense? Where does the rubber hit the road with nuts-and-bolts standards, considerations, metrics and limits? This especially becomes important in doing it out in the real world. That’s where you can be put into prison or killed if you get it wrong.  Now the really bad news. Odds are you were taught sets-you-up for those results. Largely, not because of what you were taught, but what you weren’t taught.

Remember when the answer to ‘what is self-defense’  had answers like “defending myself from an attack”? And why that’s not such a viable answer?  (A more viable answer is “The appropriate level of force needed to keep you safe from an unprovoked attack,”)

Until now, that definition wouldn’t have made as much sense.   So why is this so hard to understand? Two reasons.

One of the reasons is all the instructors out there who are peddling whatever it is they teach AS self-defense! Martial arts, mixed martial arts, knife fighting, shooting, empowerment, self-help, cardio and fitness … it’s all self-defense, doncha know?

No. No it’s not. But you won’t find that out until you’re getting arrested, or a fist crashes through your block and breaks your nose, or the back of your head is being jack-hammered off the concrete or you get jumped by six guys because you were ‘ready’ to fight only one.  Wait, what? Is it really that bad? Yeah. In fact, it’s worse than you know. That’s why I’m writing these articles. Remember that fuzzy definition of self-defense?

Because it’s so vague, in the classroom/dojo/gym almost anything can be peddled as self-defense training. You wouldn’t believe some of the things I’ve heard instructors calling ‘self-defense.’ And they do.

When you come out and ask “Is what you’re teaching self-defense,” you will have people who insist it is — regardless of what they are teaching. You’ll usually find they’ve changed the definition of ‘self-defense’ to specifically mean what they are teaching.  (This especially in self-help, empowerment training.) That’s why you need to have a better definition, other wise you’ll be sold a bill of goods. Or, going back to an earlier analogy you won’t know until you take off your wing is cracked.

If you press by asking ‘how is it self-defense,’ most often what you’ll get is “Well it’s not exactly self-defense, but it can be used for it!” Sure, and a cattle truck can be used to haul kids to soccer practice too. It’s just not as good as a mini-van for the job.  Are they lying? Well no. It can be modified, but then the question is are they also teaching you how to modify it? To make it work, you’re going to have to tweak it differently  for out in the street… or in the living room… or at a bar… or in a parking lot at  two a.m. against multiple attackers. That’s allowing that it can be modified that much. That’s one hell of a big allowance.

Here’s where things can get a little … tricky. Often what is being taught by a particular source is exclusively a single aspect of self-defense, such as physical. This can be likened to a single finger on a hand, important, but not all there is to the subject of self-defense. Nor is the one aspect the key element of self-defense (e.g., all you need is the physical).

Nobody knows the whole of the subject of self-defense. And while we’re collecting ‘nopes,’ even allowing for specialization in one aspect, nobody knows all of that either. Pick a topic out of the  aspect of physical. Any topic, shooting, empty hand or knife. You can learn a lot at a particular school. There will come a time when you’ve learned all that you can in that school, but that doesn’t mean you know all there is about the topic. That’s how big even these smaller topics are. I recently watched a SWAT team commander learn a new pistol grip from a female firearms instructor. The grip compensated for long fingernails. The man can shoot like nobody’s business, but acrylic nails wasn’t something he’d considered, much less had a solution to.

Another issue goes back to why I came up with the idea of the self-defense hand. That is often what is taught is small tidbits of different ‘fingers.’  There’s a lot of important information being left out. This is where things get really muddled. There are subjects that have relevance to self-defense, but that doesn’t make them self-defense. For example, there are certain people who have be convinced they are ‘worth’ defending themselves (a common issue among abuse survivors). But that does not automatically make ’empowerment training’  effective self-defense training — even if it does involve yelling, kicking and punching. But you can be damned sure it’s being sold as everything you need.

I really want to stress this point. It’s not that the information is wrong or doesn’t work. The problem isn’t that clear cut. It’s more that while what’s being taught will work in certain situations, what those situations are isn’t being taught. Or how to spot when it’s time to just turn and run fiercely. That’s because nothing you are trained in is going to work in those circumstances.

These are just a few of the issues involved with changing self-defense from a noun to a verb. The former is a subject to be taught. The latter  is being able to do self-defense in the real world. Which brings us back to…

The second reason why ‘what is self-defense’ is complicated question is because of the real world answer. Not in the dojo answer. Not in the classroom answer. But one that has to do with your actions. Actions you will be held accountable for.

In application  the most exact answer is “It depends.”  

‘It depends’ comes closest to being the right answer because the question needs to be reframed as “Under different circumstances, what is both the appropriate level of force and stays within the boundaries of self-defense?”

That turns from a search for a simplistic answer to a subject of width, depth and understanding.  (Which it just happens to be.) Realize violence comes in many different types, levels, variations and changing circumstances.  Remember the “The appropriate level of force needed to keep you safe from an unprovoked attack” answer?  Well what the appropriate level of force is depends on the circumstances of the situation. Circumstances you won’t be able to predict. Circumstances you can only asses on the spot. In other words, it depends.

Odds are, what you were taught as self-defense would work under certain conditions. But were you taught how to recognize when you’re in them? More importantly, recognize when you’re not? For example I knew a young black belt in a McDojo who down blocked into a knife. Great answer for an empty handed attack. In this case, the knife won. I tell you this because there is no one ‘answer,’ response or training system that covers every situation. Yet, odds are that’s what you’ve been sold or have bought into.

All of this has been aimed at understanding there’s an invisible crack in the wing of your airplane of self-defense. The last thing you want to have happen is discover the problem in the middle of a self-defense situation

End of Part I

More on Risky Business – Maija Soderholm

They say you should imagine the scariest opponent you can think of, and that your training is valid if only if it works against them.

I get this – Certainly if your training only works against an inexperienced, clumsy, compliant, half-wit you are indeed doomed to failure. But is the opposite true for the other end of the scale?

Who would you most fear to cross swords with? Not in a sport context, but in an imaginary lethal encounter?

My personal nightmare is a bigger, faster, stronger, insane person. (Let’s not go into multiples/ambush/unarmed vs armed etc. Just keep it simple, to a one on one see ’em coming both equally armed context). And for me, the ‘insane’ part is the part that makes them the most scary. If someone is insane and does not care if they live, what options do you have? Not many. There is no potential harm you can threaten them with. They cannot be reasoned with, and the height/weight advantage means they outmatch you once contact is made.

When the odds get this bad, you have to risk everything to stand even a small chance of prevailing. Your options narrow down to the smallest of windows of opportunity, where the risk of injury or death is almost a certainty, and your only option is to ‘go’. Once. Win or Lose.

You could argue that this is the most important place to train because it matters the most. But it is also extremely rare. Many people might outweigh or outreach you, and there are certainly people out there who are more highly skilled, but insane? Not so much. For someone to care less if they ‘die’ just for the pleasure of taking you out? This takes a very particular type of individual with a very, very, personal grudge.

Why does any of this matter?

Because this is the opponent most people seem to fight, all the time.

Is this ‘wrong’?

There is a logic that says that if you have the answer to the most difficult problem, you also have the answer to all the easier problems, because the only thing that is changing in the equation is the threat level the opponent presents. As the threat level goes down, so the winning should become easier and easier. Right?

Well, kinda … yes, the technique might be very effective, but no, because the risk to self is left extremely high.

Remember, in training smart, we are looking for maximum gain for minimum risk. When you have no time or space, you have to judge everything, from range, to timing, to angle, perfectly. Even if there is only half an opening, you hope for some luck to add to your slight chance of surprise and you take it. Because you have to. And if nothing else, it never hurts to increase the chaos if you are losing.

But what of mere mortal opponents? I would argue that here, you actually do have the luxury of space, time, and especially rationality, to play with. You have choices, and those choices actually increase as the RELATIVE level of the threat decreases.

Rory once said something to the effect that time is a commodity, and one of the differences between a veteran and a rookie is knowing when you have it, and when you do not. If you do have it, it is far better to spend it gaining intel, rather than rushing straight into an unknown chaos without understanding what you might be facing.

Same can be said for sword play. If they are not insane, gain some intel first. Don’t risk yourself unnecessarily. You do have the time and the space. Use them. Make a smart decision.

I found the quote below on the internet. I have no idea if it is a real Native American saying, but I thought it was quite good. It speaks both to the difference in attitude whilst training versus in ‘reality’, but perhaps it also applies in a dueling situation, to the one who controls the game versus the one who does not?

“The huntsman can make many mistakes, the hunted, only one”.

Be the hunter.


Comment by Erik Kondo

Here is my interpretation of what you are saying. Please correct me as you see fit.

A person has both the ability and willingness to do you harm. If he is insane and determined to kill you at all costs. His will is not a point of weakness. It is fixed. Only your superior ability or your superior response will stop him. In this case, a category of response with a high degree of self-risk is acceptable under the circumstances.

But when a person has the free will to stop his attack at any time, then there usually exist multiple lower risk options available that target his Will-to-Continue. His Will-to-Continue could be his point of weakness.  In this case, the previous category of response with the high degree of self-risk is now not the “best” option. You could first explore other categories of responses with lower self-risk.

Therefore, the responses do not exist only on a linear continuum. They also exist in different dimensions.

Response by Maija

I think your phrase ‘Will-To-Continue’ is great, because that gives us the only question that matters –

“What will make them stop”?

Realizing that this is a question that can be answered to alter the outcome in most cases (apart from with the rational or irrational crazies) now gives you time to find out what that answer might be.

Sometimes the answer IS me, physically forcing them to stop, at other times it could be them deciding not to continue due to external circumstances, or perhaps realizing that they have made a big mistake by miscalculating the threat posed to them.

I can influence their decision by how I act, what I say, how I move, what I do.

Everything I do has to swing the risk reward equation towards risk (for them). And it’s important to note that the equation needs to stay in risk/reward mode, and not win/lose mode. People emotionally hate to lose, and make very risky, and often irrational, decisions to avoid doing so.

If they are in survival mode, they need to feel like prey.

In social mode, they need to feel like they made the decision to not continue for themselves, to avoid feeling like they are ‘losing’.

In rational mode, you have to show them that the risk is not worth the reward, but have to worry less about it being a personal insight than just showing it as it is.

Finally, just a reminder that this is a piece about swordplay, so what I say comes from a limited view. It has ‘edges’. I do not speak from a self-defense perspective, but admittedly, the cross overs in tactics are obvious.