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Personal Protection Skills
by Gerald MacCauley, P.P.S. (class 25)

According to the polls, fear of crime is America's number one concern. Naturally, this has caused a multitude of businesses to jump on the bandwagon, hoping to profit off of those fears. Locksmiths, alarm companies, Karate schools, security corn companies, weapons manufacturers, guard dog kennels and so on, all promise us the security we need to survive these troubled times. Many of these companies are quick buck artists who have - little, if any, knowledge of human violence and how to control it. The professionals in the protection field, whether police, military or personal protection specialists, understand that security is a multi-dimensional discipline. We must possess awareness and common sense. Once we fully understand what makes a good victim, we can take positive steps to change that image to a hard target that is too much of a risk to test.

Training can be provided in everything from firearms to martial arts, but in order for it to be effective, the training must be part of a complete self defense system. No single method, technique or piece of equipment, can be counted on to defeat all threats. Each is a component of an entire system. Crime Prevention Officers from most police departments can explain about locks and alarms, but they also know that these can be breached. A good self defense instructor can train you to fend off an attack, but that won't prevent multiple or armed attackers from testing your skills. A good firearm should prevent death or serious injury at the hands of an attacker, but practically speaking, there is very little else it is good for and it is worthless locked in a safe or tucked away in a nightstand.

A lot of information has been published about personal protection, however, few of those authors have ever been in a position to have to save an innocent life and many have never actually been attacked. Most of the advice is theory and little of the advice actually comes from understanding the criminal mind and its motivations.

The fact is, criminals are afraid to get hurt. They fear the police not because of the threat of going to jail. They fear the police because the police have guns, clubs, heavy metal flashlights, mace and the ability to summon other officers when needed. Of course, police officers get attacked occasionally, but only in a very small percentage of the numerous contacts officers have with hardened criminals.

We have all read articles in magazines that tell folks how to defend themselves by using a rat-tail comb as a weapon or, carrying a whistle to ward off attackers. Those same articles usually go on to say that you can temporarily "incapacitate" an attacker by kneeing him in the groin or raking him across the eyes with your keys. These makeshift weapons are used as a last resort and all reference to carrying anything more formidable is omitted, because it might be used against you. Well, I must say that self protection is a right and fighting back is your responsibility. And to this end, a serious commitment is required to take a positive and active role in your survival.

Awareness, Avoidance, Defense

There are basically three stages of personal protection, each requiring a certain degree of preparation. These stages are awareness, avoidance, and defense. All three are part of a system and need to be approached as a lifestyle if it is to be an effective system.

Awareness means having the ability to recognize possible or real threats as well as the ability to anticipate the unfavorable conditions that are conducive to an attack. In protection work, a lot of emphasis is placed on the advance team identifying potential threats so they can be neutralized. So it must be with our own protection. It is our responsibility to become educated about our own surroundings.

Avoidance is the next logical step in our protection arsenal and frequently the one we ignore most. Many assault victims report having a "bad feeling" just prior to an attack. Whether through advanced planning or a "sixth sense", we should be able to recognize potential threats and avoid them. For example, driving through a rough part of town increases the likelihood of problems occurring. We may know this but chose to take the risk out of convenience, rather than take a safer route.

If, after taking as many precautions as possible, we find ourselves under attack, we must make a multitude of decisions in a very short period of time. Do I resist? How do I resist? Is retreating an option? Is compliance an option? Do I have the skills and ability to defend myself? When we make the decision to fight back, it is absolutely necessary to be as dynamic and powerful as we possibly can be. There is not the luxury of sparring and attempting to "temporarily incapacitate" our attacker. All of our training in armed and unarmed combat comes down to desire to survive. Using the fine motor skills taught in martial arts takes years of training and discipline. Under stress, we fall back on instincts and gross motor movements. We use the large muscles to react. These are the skills that must be taught and reviewed. Unlike Chuck Norris, who makes villains sorry they chose him to attack, real world Self Defense is not pretty. There is no satisfaction that we taught the bad guys a lesson. Real self defense is ugly, brutal and carries with it the very real possibility of failure. A firm resolve must be achieved long before the actual encounter begins. Are we capable of breaking bones, crippling an attacker and even crushing the life out of them? Are we afraid of being arrested for our actions, regardless of their righteousness? If there is any doubt whatsoever that you are justified in defending yourself, then you run the very real possibility of losing not only the encounter, but very possibly your life.

One very effective way to prepare for an attack is to visualize the most frightening situation you can imagine. Let your mind create the entire scenario, from initial attack to the only acceptable conclusion; your survival. Do whatever it takes to survive and Don't let doubt cause you to hesitate. Without taking self defense seriously, you are like an ostrich who hides his head in the sand and hopes the danger will pass. That is not personal protection; that is giving up your right to self defense.

About the Author: Gerald MacCauley, P.P.S., is the Director of Comprehensive Defensive Services in West Palm Beach, Florida (561) 433-3035. He is involved in instruction, consultation and provision of personal protective services.

Copyright © 2003, Executive Protection Institute