Monday, June 30, 2008

De-Greening the Emerald City

One way that gang activity and violence is changing the face of Seattle for everyone. A friend bought a condo on South Jackson and 28th Ave. Until this spring, there were trees on the street. Now there are stumps. She found out that the trees had recently been cut down because gang members were using them for cover in shootings.

This effects everyone's quality of life, particularly as gang activity has proliferated over the last couple of years and occasionally pops up in unexpected locales such as Queen Anne and Northgate. Recent news reports have also made a point to link our greenery to increased risk for assault.

SD with PMA , PMS, and WTS

There are a lot of folks out there who really do believe that women just cannot effectively defend themselves. So it's somewhat refreshing to see this article about a veteran police officer, Captain Kirby Lee Maybush, teaching women to defend themselves. Self-defense needs a positive mental attitude (PMA), which you get from your physical, mental and spiritual strength (PMS) and the will to survive (WTS). According to the article, "being called to hundreds of crime scenes -- from domestic violence to rape or physical abuse -- motivated him to teach women not only how to defend themselves, but empower them to believe they can do it. . . [F]ear is paralyzing; knowledge about what to do in a threatening situation is empowering -- even though it offers no guarantee of a safe outcome."

The good: Strong emphasis on awareness and prevention, and how you carry yourself physically. Also recognizing threats, including your own state of mind.

The not-so-good: Examples of women who got rid of men harassing them at bus stops by peeing herself, or by picking her nose and drooling. Evading assault by disgusting the potential perp? On the one hand, in self-defense there are no real rules and whatever works is great. On the other hand, a woman may have to do some mental juggling to construe these tactics as empowering. Regardless, if it makes you more powerful, do it.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Feel the Fear, it sells

Tonight's TV news reported a rape in Seattle's Dr. Jose Rizal Park, near Beacon Hill.

News reporting is on a tight timeline. Details deemed insignificant don't make it in. This report included two details that gain significance because they were included.

First, there are trees in the park (duh!!!). Perpetrators can hide behind trees. And I was left dangling with possible implications. Am I supposed to want to chop down all the trees, or avoid greenery?

Second, adjacent to Rizal Park is "the jungle," a greenbelt that some of Seattle's homeless call home. This news report pointed out both the park's proximity to "the jungle" and it's connection to homeless people. Is the implication that the assailant was likely a homeless man? The report gives no real reason why it should be a homeless man; this area is also home to drug dealing/use and gangs. I'm willing to go out on a limb and assert the report is quite deliberately playing on prejudicial fear.

Details such as these round out a story, giving it the appearance of more substance and veracity. Don't be sucked in by dangling innuendos. Don't buy the fear.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Harder than finding Nemo? Try finding a good self-defense program

What do you look for in a self-defense class?

One woman shares the results of her search here. She found slim pickins--most of her web search turned up fight-driven, dominance contest "training" or sites that aim to "educate" the reader by scaring them witless. It's hard to find a good class, but she did find Wenlido, a group teaching self-defense in British Columbia since 1976. I don't have any personal experience with them, but they have a great reputation.

Guidelines for selecting a good self-defense class were drawn up by the National Coalition Against Sexual Assault and can be found here.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

That "Second Location" Quandry

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer has a new crime blog. Here's the most recent entry:

Seattle police are investigating an apparent rape in Dearborn Park.

Officers were called to the Beacon Hill neighborhood park just after 4 a.m. Sunday after a caller reported hearing a woman screaming for help.

The woman told police her attacker accosted her at about 2 a.m. near a payphone at the Renton-area video store. He threatened to hurt her if she didn't get in his car, which she then did.

He drove into Seattle, stopping at Dearborn Park. There he pulled her from the car and sexually assaulted her in the park before leaving the scene in his car, a silver or gold Honda Accord. according to a police report.

While there are very few hard and fast rules in self-defense, this comes the closest: Never allow yourself to go to a second location. Even if the guy threatens to hurt you. Guess what--he intends to hurt you anyway. Sad how many women don't realize this, and could keep themselves safer if they did.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

A little TOO proactive?

Say you're a mother of young children, and a level 3 sex offender moves into your neighborhood. What would you do? Would you do what Tammy Gibson did? She confronted the young man who'd recently moved into a nearby trailer park and began beating him with an aluminum baseball bat.

Not surprisingly, she is now facing criminal charges. Tammy Gibson, trying to keep her children safe, is now charged with second-degree assault and felony harassment.

Read all about it here.

Sometimes there's a fine line between self-defense and vigilante action. Sometimes that line becomes a canyon. Ms. Gibson proactively built a bridge to cross that canyon. Sometimes it's better to stay on your side of the line.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Every Breath You Take . . .

Those words open that old Police song. Creepy in the way it romanticizes stalking. I've been doing some reading on stalking, especially in the year after Rebecca Griego's murder by her stalker ex-boyfriend on the University of Washington campus. The UW has taken some administrative steps to improve it's response to this sort of incident. I went to one of the trainings, and found about twenty other UW personnel in a 300+ person lecture hall.

One of the articles I found online illustrates the use of high-tech equipment for a prime stalker activity -- surveillance. Stalkers often not only watch their targets, they let that target know that they know where they've been. Maybe even who they talked to and what they said. Other online resources can be found at the National Center for Victims of Crime's Stalking Resource Center, the National Institute of Justice, and the Stalking Victims' Sanctuary.

All this information is great, but only if people read it and take it seriously. In the first paragraph I noted that a training about violence on campus was attended by only a handful of people. The National Institute of Justice website lists obstacles to prosecuting stalking as a crime (including law enforcement not recognizing stalking behavior).

Talking about the police (rather than The Police), YOU are the only person responsible for your safety. Even though stalking is a criminal offense, it is more apparent to the justice system in hindsight.

Three suggestions gleaned from looking over these resources:
  1. Trust your instincts,
  2. Ask other people for help, including letting others know you're being stalked, and
  3. Recognize and believe that you are not responsible for the stalker's actions.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

When is an Assault Not an Assault?

I heard this story first on KUOW (Seattle's NPR radio station) this morning, and thought it wacky enough to look it up. For more background, here's the story just the week before the jury rendered their verdict. Both articles are in The New York Times.

Two men are in a spin class in an upper east side gym (in New York City). Mr. Carter the stockbroker finally has enough of Mr. Sugarman the investment partner, whose loud grunting and exubarant vocalizing during class are annoying him. When asking the class instructors to ask him to quiet down doesn't work, when yelling at Sugarman doesn't work, Carter lifts the front end of Sugarman's bike and lets it drop, while Sugarman is still on it. Sugarman sees doctor, is diagnosed with injuries, and presses charges. Carter was just found not guilty by a jury. Why? Because there was some reasonable doubt that the injuries were caused by that incident.

To me this is wacky because while Sugarman was presented as rude, obnoxious and not exactly truthful on the stand, I did not read any contention that Carter did not commit the actions that landed him in court. Where's the accountability for his actions?

My favorite quote from this article, given by one of the jurors:
B. J. Tormon, a 21-year-old nursing student whose thick biceps indicate that he has spent some time working out, said confrontations in exercise class were common. “Stuff like that happens in the gym,” he said.
"Stuff like that happens" because people can get away with it. And don't call it "stuff," call it what it is: violence. Carter got away with violent behavior.

When I was in elementary school, two wrongs did not make a right. Two wrong still don't make a right, especially when committed by middle-age men acting like children.

I teach classes where students learn life skills like de-escalation, productive confrontation, assertiveness and self defense, so that violence like this is less likely to occur. Stories like this remind me why I'm still in business.

Have you ever encountered someone so annoying, so grating, so rude that you felt you needed to put them in their place? What did you do? Email me your story (, or add a Comment to this blog.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Humiliating Enemies, and other forms of Self Defense

The internet has accelerated the promiscuous proliferation of all sorts of opinion masquerading as expert advise. The scariest ones are those with just enough conventional wisdom to hook the listener and lead them to believe that the rest is likely true. Here's the one I've found today. Note that I'm not creating a clickable link to this, as I don't want to lend it credence by association (or higher Google rankings by external links).

The title of this page is "Get Tips on How to Humiliate Your Enemies Right Here with Female Self Defense Techniques."

As a self-defense instructor, I am all in favor of everyone having the skills to defend themselves and their loved ones in case of assault. However, I have a few issues with this particular presentation.
  1. Start with the title. If you're concerned with "humiliating your enemies," this is no longer self-defense. In a court of law, that could make a big difference, and not in your favor.
  2. Again, the title. There's really no such thing as "female" self-defense techniques. Yet many writers continue to ascribe gender: "punches" are male and "pinches" are female, for instance. Fighting skills aren't male or female. In reality, skilled fighters of any gender know which techniques work for their strengths.
  3. According to this article's intro, you should learn self-defense because the rate of violent crime has purportedly increased "500% in the last 20 years." No. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the rate of violent crime across the United States has gone DOWN in the last 20 years, not up.
  4. Finally, as a self-defense teacher, I can tell you the 3 points listed here are easier to say than do. Keeping calm under duress often requires practice, finding nerve centers on a moving person takes practice, and getting the speed and coordination to execute a quick arm lift and kick takes . . . you guessed it . . . practice. As any teacher of anything will tell you, telling ain't training and training ain't performance.
Few things are more humiliating than trying to execute a "sure-fire" knockout and finding your opponent not just totally unaffected, but laughing as he slams you to the ground. At that point, however, humiliation is probably the least of your worries. Readers, do yourselves a favor. Take a class. Practice.

If you're in the Puget Sound area, I've got some classes coming up in July, or view this listing any time for what's upcoming.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

The Best Laid Plans of Mice and Men

This sad news article tells about a Marine who was on leave home when he was killed.

He had heeded the advice of commanding officers, "that a Marine on leave might be seen as a prime robbery target with a pocketful of money, so he only carried $8, his military ID card and a bank card." He was waiting at a bus stop with his girlfriend when they were indeed accosted by robbers. "The robbers took his wallet, turned his pockets inside out, took what he had and told him since he was a Marine and didn't have any money he didn't deserve to live. They put the gun to his neck and shot him."

The vast, vast, VAST majority of the time, robbery attempts such as this do not end in murder. This young man was prepared for those vast, vast, VAST majority of times. His plan fell through.

As a self-defense teacher, I'm always asked how best to avoid street crime, or if necessary deal with it. I give options, not answers. Even the best plan has holes, even the best defense has weaknesses. Always think "what next, if . . .?"

Plan, or be planned for.