As an adoptive mom one of the more soul crushing things I have witnessed is failure to thrive. This happens often in third world countries, usually in orphanages where there are not enough people to take care of the massive amounts of babies that are left there. These infants may have all their needs met in the way of food and a place to sleep, but in the way of human touch they get just what it takes to sustain them nourishment wise. These infants will cry and scream to be held, but the only time that even might possibly happen is when they are given a bottle. That basic need of human affection is not met and they wither. The saddest part is when they stop doing their instinctual communication of crying because they have learned that it will not bring them what their body craves. I have heard stories where the baby ward of some of the orphanages is eerily silent. The effect of this can literally cause a brain to not form in the right way and the infant stays an infant in mind. Their body will grow at a much slower rate or not at all because they are lacking human physical affection. Sadly this in not uncommon even in the United States in cases of neglect and a google search on this will have you sobbing.
In foster care you find that affection gets twisted. More often than not affection is exploited in a child and that physical craving for touch is turned into something sadistic. This can create the opposite effect where they want nothing to do with touch. Grooming takes innocent thoughts and muddles up a developing brain in the worst of ways. Or they misconstrue affection with sex. I saw this more often than not with teen girls. They craved to be wanted and their brain had been rewired to think that if you care deeply for someone that equates to sex. This is how you end up with babies having babies. I once had a foster child who had been groomed and raped by her stepfather from the age of 11 ask me, “What if it felt good?” She was wondering if what he did to her was still wrong. Too often we want to think of these situations as a major struggle when its often small manipulations, small metaphorical bites they take out of children’s minds and bodies to get them circling a drain and saying to themselves, if they participated then they must be guilty too.
So what does all that have to do with women’s self defense? Quite a lot actually. My sole goal is to get women training. To seek out as much as they can for their own personal safety and physical touch, in its rawest form, is a need that is met in martial arts. Too often we hear how parents do not want their kids in combat sports because they think its too violent or they don’t want them to learn to fight. The funny thing is its actually the exact opposite. When you know how to fight you tend to not have to fight. You end up being trained in avoidance techniques and gain a self confidence that you don’t have to prove yourself to anyone. You have already proven yourself to yourself. You understand the gravity of violence and therefore the desire is deescalation more than anything. You seek out peace first. You see this with kids that are at risk youth; they are put in a martial arts program and they thrive. You see this with veterans struggling with PTSD, there is a need that is filled only through the gym. I have heard so many stories of people saying their lives were saved through martial arts. Those that once had suicidal thoughts and felt broken, healed though the grit, determination, and community that is built while battling personal demons with a friend on the mat.
Dr. David Ley, Psychologist and BJJ Black belt says this, “Contact triggers the release of neurochemicals in our brain and hormones throughout the body, which make us more aware, focused, and connected. Oxytocin is one hormone often called the “cuddle” or “empathy” hormone, which is released in the body during physical contact. It is likely one reason why friendships develop so quickly and deeply amongst BJJ students.” Basically martial arts can rewire your brain. This has happened in my women’s jiu jitsu class, at first its awkward especially when you are boob to boob, you don’t want to get as close as you need to at the beginning, but very quickly there is giggling, likely a dirty joke, and pretty soon you are rolling around as if you are in a tank of JELLO. Both of you are trying new things out, there is a mild competitiveness, but everyone wants everyone to succeed and be a better version of themselves. It’s quite a high. “During intense exercise, our brain releases a protein called Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor, or BDNF. This protein protects and repairs neural tissue, and yields a powerful feeling of euphoria.” Dr. Ley, Psychology Today.
During a class ideally two people are not sparring at 100% with their partner. Out of mutual respect you are going at maybe 50% unless discussed previously. People coming from abusive or traumatic backgrounds might see the physical aspect as always harmful and always coming full blown strong in anger. They have never seen punching, kicking, or aggression in a healthy quest for learning and self discipline. This is what youth at risk experience when starting a martial arts program. They witness a camaraderie of people trying to better themselves so they can be a champion to others. They learn moves that harm, but are taught with grave understanding and consequence; and a physical touch that rewires their brain in a positive manner from something that has only been understood in harm or negativity. I have personally seen my trainer, Aaron Kimball, nix certain people sparring with each other because one may not have the self control just yet needed to compete with the other. He wants people pushed to their limits, but not hurt. Being able to gauge what each person is capable of and what they need to succeed is an art in itself.
I was recently reading an article from the CDC that said they are seeing the largest increase in, “excess” deaths from previous years in young adults; literally a 26 percent jump. They are attributing this rise to “despair” due to lockdown measures, (August 14) CDC. Former Food and Drug Administration Commissioner, Scott Gottlieb mentions in a CNBC interview on October 21,2020, that there are major spikes in, “drug overdoses triggered by some of the implications we’ve gone through dealing with Covid 19.” There has been a major increase to suicide hotline calls due to isolation and health agencies in several states are reporting aggressive upticks in suicides. Dr. Tiffany Field of Miami’s Miller School of Medicine says, “Touch is ten times stronger than verbal or emotional contact, and it affects damned near everything we do. We forget that touch is not only basic to our species but the key to it.” (May 10, 2020) psychreg. We are not made to be alone, our brains are fed on touch.
I saw a meme the other day that was meant to be funny but instead just broke my heart. It was joking about how social distancing at six feet is amazing and how everyone can stay six feet away from them forever. How they were glad handshakes were not part of the new normal and the idea of masks forever was fabulous because no more forced smiling. I know this was meant in humor….I think, but the lasting implications of this are devastating and the proof is in the pudding. People are wasting away and drowning in mental illness in a world where touch is so extremely frowned upon.
The Dangers of Skinny Pop- Christun Erwin
“Who would have thought a one legged man could hurt anyone? Not even Teena would have, she is my wife. Julie (one of his victims,) thought I was harmless, took pity on me then I smashed her head in with a hammer.” – Michael Benjamin Sams- serial killer
“I’ve killed 13 women, raped dozens more, I have probably killed 54 in my time… Sometimes they talk to me and I let them live…. Others? Well they were dead the moment I saw them. I’d beat up on them, rape them, yea I have eaten human flesh…. Tastes like pork…. I prefer genitalia, period. But you ask Clara, she’s marrying me next year. She trusts me. Remorse? No way, period. They all asked for it, suckers, the whole lot.” -Arthur Shawcross- serial killer
“I had fantasies as a youth then went on to following women home. I got my sexual kicks from that at first, then I raped at least a dozen times, then I killed. Why? Because she knew me from college. They were easy to chat to, they all liked me because I looked so harmless. Most women are stupid. They trust good looking guys like me. I’d say they all deserved what they got. I carried one women’s shopping home, then when we got to her yard I lifted her baby out of the stroller and smashed its head into a tree. Then I raped and strangled the mother. She lived and that isn’t any fault of mine, that was a pure act of God.” -Michael Ross- serial killer
“I asked a girl for directions from my car, she stuck her head in the electric window (Don’t ever do this, like ever… in fact don’t approach the car at all) it was a busy street at night…. I dragged her 150 yards then smashed her unconscious, then I took her away and raped and killed her. Slut.” Arthur Shawcross- serial killer
In order to even start to think about a line of defense we must first and foremost understand the absolute evil and maliciousness that is in this world. Last week we talked about our humanity and compassion being the predators advantage and this week I want to venture a start into situational awareness.
A thought first….. I have noticed a trend here lately, and in my opinion it’s a dangerous way of thinking. It is a claim that women shouldn’t have to take precautions, that we shouldn’t have to worry about being raped or attacked on the way to our car and in such we should change our approach and focus. In recent years there has even been disapproval on women’s self defense claiming the direction should be on men’s classes teaching men not to rape. I am raising my boys to have the utmost respect for women, but I am not banking on a men’s course for saving myself; in a weird twist that’s a messed up version of me being the damsel waiting to be saved by some one else’s actions. The fact of the matter is in the history of man there has never NOT been rape or not been attacks on the most vulnerable by malicious people. There has never not been evil beings and no amount of rehab in a men’s class is going to change a person that thinks like those quoted above. That’s animalistic in its simplistic form. There is predator and there is prey and in their mind they are taking out what they perceive as the weaker links. I am not going to spend my efforts waiting on the rapists to be rehabilitated, I want to take my chances on learning what I can to get home safe to my babies at night and making sure they are safe too. You make your own call but understand you are a walking victim if you do not understand this.
Geoff Thompson author of Dead or Alive said, “The people we are talking about, those in society that attack for fun or for profit do not give a monkey’s f*€k about what is right or wrong, they have no morals and would take great pleasure in raping a girl. They have already decided to break the law and are on the very dark side of wrong.”
And that is just it in a nutshell, they have ALREADY decided to break the law.
Christopher Berry-Dee, Criminologist and author of Ladykiller, a well known book on the psychology of women serial killers said, “We must ask ourselves are we not living in a world where lead balls bounce, elephants fly, and fairies reign supreme? And have we somehow forgotten that our streets are infested with human scum who actually enjoy smashing their bullying fist into the faces of our children, wives, and the elderly?”
I don’t write this so much to create paranoia but to get in your head that the moment someone breaks into your space with the intention to intimidate or escalate to an attack you must not think of their humanity because they have none. Your brain must jump quickly to a violence that matches theirs in order to get away. That’s how we understand the predator. We must turn into something feral intent only on survival. We must move, we must be action.
You know that jump you get when something loud drops on the floor? That jolt to awareness of your brain trying to quickly calculate what is going on? That’s the type of sensitivity you need to be when walking across a parking lot alone, when you are in any potentially threatening environment. Your body being alert and ready for confrontation will show a predator that maybe you aren’t the easy prey he is looking for thus causing a deselection of you as his victim.
Lt. Col. Jeff Cooper, Combat Pistol Instructor gives us a list of alertness and levels of awareness using code white, yellow, orange, and red:
Code White: This sadly is what most women walk around in and what I want to literally jerk you out of. This is a state of oblivion to danger. You are unaware of your environment, the types of people, and basically any human hunter mannerisms. You are the predators wet dream. You stare at your phone or are talking/texting on it while strolling to the car.
Code Yellow: You are alert. You have an understanding of what areas are dangerous, dark doorways, if there are no exits, and understand how a predator may act. This is not a state of paranoia, but a tough observation of your surroundings. You have the mentality of a side seat driver. My grandmother has Alzheimer’s and when she is a passenger in your vehicle she tends to call out basically everything in her surroundings from hay bales to trees to signs. Ironically this is where I need you to be, habitually telling yourself what your brain sees constantly when out in public, or walking to your car, or at a party/bar, or basically any potentially dangerous situation. Talk out loud about what you see, at the very least you will look like you are crazy and maybe a predator won’t want to mess with you for that reason…
Code Orange: This threat evaluation represents what could happen. This is where you sense possible danger and you evaluate your circumstances. This state allows you assessment of how to handle the situation before it gets ugly. This is the thought process of what you are going to do. Ideally you will have gone though it enough physically and mentally beforehand in training to the point you have a plan. You recognize possible predatory advances so you can react before they are even in close to being in your space.
Code Red: Threat avoidance, this is your fight or flight situation that was evaluated in code orange. If there is a threat the plan is to flee. Always flee. Never stand to fight if you have the option to run. If you can’t the next goal is to stay on your feet and stay conscious. If threat dissipates then revert back to code orange and then code yellow…. Code red is where you are readying yourself to act immediately to flee if you can or fight if you have to.
STAY THE HELL OUT OF WHITE!!
A couple of years ago I was at my cousins wedding in Kansas City; the reception was over and several of us were still sitting in the hotel lobby hanging out. A man who seemed harmless enough was at the tables with us and I assumed he was from the brides side as I didn’t know him. Even though he was drunk he didn’t seem a threat, but at one point acted as if I was the crazy one when I brushed his hand off of my shoulder when he seemed to be too friendly. I had told him I was married and had 8 kids (that’s usually the best deterrent). He hit on my cousins too throughout the rest of the night and eventually we were all partied out and headed to the elevators sans strange man.
Earlier that day I had fixed all the hair of the bridal party and the maid of honor brought in the largest Costco bag of Skinny Pop I had ever seen; literally it was as long as my leg. Somehow it had made it through the snacking of bridesmaids, the reception, to the lobby, and I was the last hanger on of the still half full bag of Skinny Pop. The man had disappeared I assumed to go to his own room by the time we got on the elevator. I made sure my two cousins got to their doors safely before I went to the fourth floor where my husband and kiddos were sleeping.
This is where I failed. This is where my screw up could have been very costly and I want women to learn from it. I went from being in a code yellow with my cousins to being in code white when I realized my key card wouldn’t work. It was 3 in the morning and I knew I was going to have to go all the way back downstairs to get a new one because if I banged any louder on my hotel room I was going to wake the whole floor. Ryan and kiddos were obviously pretty tired and they were not answering. My room was directly to the right of the elevator that created the center of the “O,” where all the rooms encircled it. I sat the bag of Skinny Pop down, and with my back to the foyer and any possible threat, I decided to take a selfie with the still surviving popcorn. I thought I was quite hilarious at the time. When I finished I stood up, turned around, and directly behind me only two feet away was the man from the lobby smiling like a creep. My stomach dropped and I instantly went on alert to code red, I had made a grave mistake in situational awareness and I knew it. Thankfully it was a less costly lesson, though one I will never forget.
The guy was drunk and though he cornered me on the elevator while I was trying to go downstairs I was able to exit and warn him, this time not so nicely, to leave me alone. When he still continued in his pursuit, I called very loudly for my family who came shooting very calamitously out of seven surrounding rooms. They consisted of three veterans, several avid hunters, and all of them pro second amendment. Immediately this guy went on the whole, “this bit*h is psycho,” train, but the threat was eliminated and I went downstairs to get my new key card.
I tell you this because that is one mistake I hope you never make and one I know I will never make again. I hadn’t taken the time to know where the stairs were and that’s exactly where he came from. I very easily could have been hit from behind and taken anywhere; an ambush that no amount of karate would have helped at that point. I did not know his intentions, he may have just been a belligerent drunk, but hell he very easily could have been a person with the horrific personality of those I quoted in the beginning. Pay attention ladies, put away the distractions and the Skinny Pop and be vigilant in your surroundings. Know the codes and stay out of white.
My sister-in-law was working in an art gallery a few years ago when a man walked in asking to be shown the restroom. She had started to walk away when he ambushed from behind. She screamed, kicked, clawed, using everything in her arsenal and eventually there was enough of a scuffle for someone outside the shop to see what was happening to come in and help. A couple years later when I was a belt or two into karate, she came to visit while we were building our current home. We had put in a full day of whatever manual labor was needed, sat down in camping chairs in what would eventually become my kitchen, and opened a bottle of wine with a Dewalt screw gun. We had a good buzz going as we jabbered about martial arts and eye jabs, then she said something that struck me; something that is quite possibly the foundation for spending the majority of my time researching and sharing what I can with women. She mentioned that while she was on her back with her attacker on top, she went to go shove her thumbs in his eyes as she had always been taught, (she was a sheriffs daughter). However, when she put her thumbs over his eyes, she hesitated and couldn’t do it. She told me that what went through her brain at that split second was the thought that she could blind this guy for the rest of his life. Of course we all in hindsight think, yes, that’s the point, he is trying to rape you, but I remember a light clicking saying of course you would think that in the moment, most women would, I would. It was humbling and the statement eye opening.
There are three top things I feel would cause a hesitation in that instant. The first being what happened to my sister in law, her humanity stepped in, the second is disbelief, and the third is adrenal responses. With our humanity, in most cases, we can hack our brains response to aggression by rewiring our physical boundaries.
Our humanity gets in the way of our safety at a time when we are already at a disadvantage, an unequal initiative We don’t believe we are being attacked, that someone would do something like this to us, and the delay to act is monumental. We can’t comprehend that this person would not think twice of stepping over our bloody body to get a beer. We might before when we feel safe and we have talked about these things with our girlfriends. We might as a keyboard warrior pulling the old faithful response of, “I would just do this….” We know in the back of our head a person ambushing us is bad and honestly should lose their eyes, but in that moment we put them on the same moral playing field as ourselves and those seconds could be detrimental. When you are in a self defense class that only focus on the physical and not any word of the pre-fight we are ignoring a major key foundation here and that is digging the moat.
Digging the moat is the point where you lay out your territory and posture how you are going to defend it. It is the point where you are angry at the injustice of what the other person is doing and choose to act on it. When the defense is just physical the moat is set where someone is within actual striking distance. That is not much of a defense, it’s barely even a castle wall. The moat needs to be mentally dug further out keeping the potential threat at a a greater distance than your typical conversation stance in a safe environment. Geoff Thompson in his book, “Dead or Alive,” talks about teaching road safety to children and how we don’t wait for them to get hit by the car to do it, we teach them to stay out of the road and to look both ways.
For women it seems that any self defense class we go to teaches a plethora of several step moves that if not rehearsed over and over under pressure even a well trained martial artist could not pull them off. We spend a couple hours with intricate physical movement and are not taught how to scramble in the first place, how to BE action. Honestly one of the biggest takeaways I have been thinking of based on statistics is that before and if the altercation gets physical we need to teach women a fighters mentality TO just move. Essentially we are doing the equivalent of showing a child how to rotate his arms and legs on the side of the pool and then throwing him in the deep end hoping for the best. I was recently talking with a Krav Maga instructor and she had said just the action of ANYTHING is the base, if they can’t do that, they can’t do the rest.
We have to first understand our mindset of anger with setting up our moat. Jordan Peterson, a renowned psychologist said this, “People who refuse to muster appropriately self-protective territorial responses are laid open to exploitation as much as those who genuinely can’t stand up for their own rights because of more essential inability or a true imbalance of power.” This is not a victim shame in any way, it’s actually directed towards the understanding that you can know all the moves in the world, but if you don’t for some reason in your moral brain feel justified in the moment, you will not pull it off. If you war with yourself for a split second, it could cost you your life. With pushing out your moat you give yourself precious time to have the fighters mindset of resentment that a person crossed into your territory.
When Dr. Peterson is working with people coming from abused situations he tries to get them to put themselves on the same playing field as someone capable of violence. Once they understand that it is not the violence itself that is the problem, but the maliciousness behind it they start to inch themselves up as an individual. If they are convinced that they themselves are capable of violence then they begin to feel less fear, less fear leads to confidence, confidence by statistics leads to less situations you are likely to be hurt in. Violence is defined in the dictionary as, “behavior involving physical force intended to hurt, damage, or kill something.” When a person is hunting for food, the death of the animal is an act of violence, when a person tortures bunnies, that is maliciousness. All people are capable of violence, even those soft spoken who seem fragile. In fact violence is necessary, its force is what holds tyranny at bay, “it is in this manner that the willingness of the individual to stand up for him or herself protects everyone from the corruption of society,” (Twelve Rules to Live By).
A person with malicious intent will give us the pause because we cannot correlate. “Getting pleasure from the fear of others is not something most of us can relate to,” (Gavin DeBecker, The Gift of Fear). This is a person who wholeheartedly believes that they can deliver the blows necessary to carry out their nefarious plan. They are not the ones lacking any confidence which is their first advantage, we are.
In the ECQC course Craig Douglas did a demonstration of two people standing at normal conversation spacing. He then asked the other person to keep his finger from touching their chest. It was basically impossible and each time he was able to tap them. He then took exactly one foot length back. He was still able to reach out and touch the person, but just that small amount of distance was able to make the difference of 90 percent. The other person was able to successfully keep his finger from touching them the majority of the time. With this being stated I believe for women it is even more so when out in public. If a stranger is approaching you in a parking lot or some unpopulated area keeping them at least ten feet from your person is key by clearly stating for them to stop. If they hear a clear, “stop,” and choose to advance in your direction they are likely trying to storm your castle with malicious intent. A person without malicious intent would not want to make you feel uncomfortable and would not cross that line. You are NOT the crazy one for preparing and setting up yourself for a potential threat, remember they are the one that approached a lone female. There are extenuating circumstances, what if they are deaf and they couldn’t hear you say stop? Blind? What if they are special needs? Keeping your level of awareness honed and yourself out of a physical reach still applies.
Geoff Thompson describes, “The Fence,” (Dead or Alive) when dealing with a stranger approaching. This is staying out of reach physically with your hands in a prepared position for whatever becomes necessary; not in your pockets, not holding your phone; up and ready to defend. You do not necessarily want them in an aggressive manner or fighters stance, but just there. If you must ask a person to stop to safely keep them from encroaching your personal territory, your hands should not be up in a surrendering position with palms exposed. Remember you are trying to be deselected for a potential threat by demonstrating you are not lacking confidence and will do what is necessary to protect yourself. You want your fingers pointed forward, palms angled towards the ground, assertive not surrendering. The goal here is for an oppressor to think you are not worth the fight and to walk away.
The fence is a mental picture of your archers at the parapets, but your moat is the line you draw for your territory. If this is crossed you get angry. Get angry while they are still several feet away so you can set your humanity aside and give yourself precious seconds to mentally prepare/defend by any means possible. “If you can bite, you generally do not have to…. When skillfully integrated, the ability to respond with aggression and violence decreases rather than increase the probability that actual aggression will become necessary. If you say no early in the cycle of oppression and you mean what you say, (which means you state your refusal in no uncertain terms and stand behind it,) then the scope for oppression on the part of the aggressor will remain properly bounded and limited,” (Twelve Rules to Live By).
Author- Christun Erwin
"Thank you for your words. They make an impact and its important that, human to human, woman to woman, mother to mother... you know that you make a difference, even to those you never knew your words" -Krystal