No, despite the recent excitement about the Brexit referendum, I’m not talking about the UK’s former credit rating.
In general I’m not the biggest fan of multi letter lists. There were way to many of them when I was studying business. I don’t find them terribly useful as models for myself, neither for business nor for self defence. However, that is not universal. For some people they are a godsend, a great way to organise information (and if you are one of them, Eric Kondo has some of the best ones, so check them out). Personally I mostly get value from them by looking at how the creator decided to organise the information and trying to figure out the patterns. Also trying to see what is “in the gaps” – what the model doesn’t cover and, if I can figure it out – why?
Having said all that, I do have one I like. I don’t use it in the classes, it’s mostly the result of trying to come up with a quick and dirty way of presenting mindset principles for seminars, since i might have a few of those coming up in the not too far future. So, here it is, the Tripple A model for self defence:
AWARENESS: Something that a lot of places give lip service too and that’s elevated to near mystical levels. It’s important. Without it everything else becomes harder. And it must be specifically trained. It also contains a number of things. Awareness of the present. Awareness of the environment, both in the moment and in terms of environmental knowledge. You can’t recognise abnormal unless you know what is normal (credit to Marc MacYoung for that one).
In SD, awareness lets you spot trouble so you can avoid it. If you can’t avoid it, it lets you see it coming and prepare. Awareness of what is actually going on in a given situation lets you select and appropriate response. Social or asocial? Actually dangerous or merely annoying? Do I have time to gather information or not? Can I leave? Can I de-escalate? In the place that I am now, and given who I am, what actions can I safely take to resolve this? If I have to use force, what level?
Awareness is one of the key components. However, on it’s own it is rather useless. It is beneficial only when it is paired with the second A, which is (cue dramatic drum roll):
ACTION: We must act. Awareness will inform our actions, but then we must take them. And to be clear, leaving is an action. Not going somewhere dangerous is an action. Hitting someone in the throat is an action. Changing the side of the street is an action. One of the big, common mistakes is not taking an action because of denial. “I’m sure it’s nothing” is probably up there with “Yeah, yeah, I’ll be careful” and “Hold my beer” for things people say before it all goes wrong. And the action needs to be appropriate. Not necessarily extreme. In a lot of situations, we can make relatively minor adjustments that have no or very low social costs but will massively increase our safety. Permission is a key component here. We must give ourselves permission to act. We have, all of us, a moral and (in our society) social/legal permission to act to protect ourselves. There are constrains to those actions. Know them, and know when they might have to be thrown out. Appropriate, decisive action works a lot of the time. Run. Fight. Apologise. Sincerely and decisively.
We do need to keep in mind that there are no magic bullets. There is no “just do this”. Most of the time when I see “10 self defence tips anyone can use anytime, ever” lists I throw up in my mouth a little bit. (Not universal, some are very good stuff by very good people). Nothing works every time And that brings me to the third A (cue dramatic drum roll again):
ADAPTABILITY: We must be able to adjust our actions. One trick ponies run into huge problems when the context changes. Physically this can be the police officer/martial artist who tries over and over to do the one wristlock he got good at in training, while he’s taking damage and it’s clearly not working. It can be the person who tries to solve every confrontation by getting loud and angry/meek and fearful. The sports/traditional fighter who can’t adjust tactics to a weapon being in play.
We need to check for effect, and see if what we are doing is working. Some degree of this happens in training. And some for real. We need to be careful, one of the most common mistakes is hitting people half strength and checking if it makes things worse (if we hit half strength, it probably will). So I don’t mean take half-arsed actions so you can be indecisive. I mean take decisive actions, then adjust for effect. Am I on a good social script? Is my physical response working? If not, I adjust.
Sometimes we only need one or two of the above. I see the potential set-up for a mugging (awareness), I turn around and leave (action). If no one follows me, I am done. I get ambushed, my counter assault training kicks in (action) and it works. I am done. Or it doesn’t and I adjust (adaptability).
We do want all three though, if we can. Layers of defence and all that.