I originally wrote this blog post months ago, and saved it because I had no catalyst to post it, until this situation.
Now, I have one.
Last night, a good friend of mine was abducted from the front porch of her house at gun point. This is not rare in Atlanta. For my background, you can read it at the end of the blog post.
The reality of the scenario was the guy scoped the house and walked past a few times, then came out of nowhere with a firearm, said some choice words, and then led my friend to his car. He put her in the trunk and took off driving. She was smart enough to breath once in the trunk, find the trunk latch, and escape at about 30mph and cover herself with road rash.
I used to live in this same neighborhood in Decatur, a close sister suburb of Atlanta. It’s a dangerous place where this kind of thing can happen.
So, with that scenario –
First, ladies, let’s take a second to look at basic precautions you can take to protect yourself, beyond what you already know.
1) Know where you live. Talk to local police, talk to your neighbors, research your neighborhood. You should educate yourself on the types of crimes that occur where you live. Most people go to a self-defense class, but don’t know what the most common crimes where they live are. Education, intelligence – they are available to you if you just ask the local patrolmen, read the news. Find out, and then adjust your habits accordingly. It doesn’t matter how hard you punch if you don’t know that 60% of crimes where you live are situations you’ll never be able to punch.
2) If something seems wrong, it is wrong. How many times have you said, ‘I think I smell smoke’ in your house, and you go to check. Then when you’re living your daily life, you don’t check. On your porch, going to the car, at the mall – when you think something is wrong, when you notice something is off – follow your gut and get to safety. The ultimate goal is to never end up in a situation. Follow your gut.
3) Know your surroundings. My friend couldn’t help what happened after the fact – but she acted correctly. She breathed, analyzed, and then looked for an escape. Always look for an escape. Breathe, calm down even when it’s toughest, and look for the quickest way out to get as far as you can away.
4) You are never safe. Statistically, crime in the US is on a 20 year downturn – but you can never count on being safe. Always look at your environment when you enter it – where is your car or destination, take a moment and look for the closest exits, other groups of people, and get to those as fast as possible – then get to your destination. You are safer walking 50 feet out of your way to an exit, or near a group of people…and taking the extra minute, then walking, than simply walking straight to your destination.
5) Always call the police – this may seem nuts, but if you feel unsafe, something is wrong, a person is lurking – call 911, explain the situation, and keep them on the phone as you procede. Don’t call a friend, call 911. You pay your taxes for a reason. In the age of Iphones, you should never NOT have your phone on you. If you see someone in the parking lot, or on the running trail that seems off – call the police, get them on the phone, take that extra minute, and get their advice. There may have been a mugging yesterday and that may be the mugger. You may be told this. Better safe than sorry. It’s easier to prevent crime with your call, than to clean up after the fact for you and the police.
And if you ever want more advice, I’m at firstname.lastname@example.org. It’s free, please ask.
Now, if you want to read further, on firearms in martial art training.
Each week I endeavor to get to the range. I run each of my favorite firearms – my pistol without a light and my one with. I do both rifles. I do this to stay proficient. I’ll occasionally do an IDPA shoot. I have a concealed carry license in a state that has very libertarian firearms laws.
I teach from a level of someone who has used firearms, seen others shot at medium and close range (as close as 3 feet away). From the respect of someone who knows the power of a firearm and what it can do when employed as an offensive and defensive weapon.
I’ve said more than a few times over the years that just like familiarity with the firearm creates a better shooter, the same goes with retention. Having someone who has handled a particular firearm for years and teaching retention and fighting with a pistol in close quarter is much easier than someone with little familiarity with the firearm.
Yet I see so many people who live in places where they can not own a firearm…none of their students can legally own a firearm. Yet, firearms disarms become a large part of their curriculum. I see this beyond occasional teachers – I see it in martial arts and combatives systems. The active instruction of firearms work with non-functioning, molded plastic. What I like to call a ‘gun shape club.’
Now look, everyone likes to have fun, show boat. You’re at a seminar, you learn some cool disarm and you do it, maybe put it on Youtube and look pretty cool. Ok, I understand.
But to teach it as realistic, ‘reality based’ when you do not operate a firearm on a daily basis nor can you own one…this is not only inaccurate but unethical. It gives a false sense of security to the student, it gives them, if you look at neurology, cognitive and barely associative access to motor skills they can not possible use – but worse, it gives them psychological access to a sense of ability they can not possibly use such methods…instead of just giving up what they have and fleeing. Instead of cutting and running – your student may just use what you teach them under duress.
I’m going to write a statement that is common in the firearms world, but perhaps not as much in the martial art world:
A blue gun is not a firearm.
It does not function. It does not fire.
The barrel isn’t blistering hot when you grab it for the cool disarm that worked on a cold pistol at the gym (which is why years ago I stopped teaching particular disarms common in some circles).
The psychology of firearm use offensively and defensively is a long term investment in training that requires the handling of a firearm, the understanding of it’s power and capability. It requires constant work, as the student learns proper usage, situational awareness and awareness to when and when not to use it. It requires intimate familiarity, and respect of firearms that lead a student to feel a level of comfort in a stress situation to actually utilize motor skills to defend themselves against a firearm. It is up to the teacher to make sure what they are teaching is something the students can learn.
Which is why I worry about the mass saturation of the market with weapons skills for those who, beyond personal enjoyment and the training room, are not remotely prepared to work against a firearm in a real time, no BS, crisis situation.
We have to be careful, as students and teachers, that we do not give our selves a false sense of security in relation to firearms. A blue gun is not a teacher. While it may seem fun, we forget that we are giving neurological and psychological access to something that is so deadly, so dangerous – the student may simply not survive. A knife is one thing – a gunshot, and the psychological aftermath, is another. I see this often when I see people have a first instinct to grapple against blue guns. It becomes quickly obvious, usually by seeing where the teaching originates, that firearms are not a primary threat to civilians or law enforcement, so improper methods are taught because they might have originated from a place, usually military in nature, that firearms are common place.
You would not teach high level ring boxing skills (like how to work with the ropes, the physiology of holding and how to do so ‘legally’, etc) to a student who would not be boxing in a competitive situation.
Why would firearms disarms be any different?
But, for those experienced, this must be termpered with our work to educate those who need access to those skills, like LEO and military or private security. To make sure they get realistic, training they can duplicate in their environment.
I have a general rule on firearms disarms and retention in class, and you may benefit from these rules:
1) The student should have a job legally requiring firearms usage;
2) If not, the student must show certification to an NRA or commonly accepted firearms safety course;
3) Then the student must show proficiency with a firearm and be willing to train with a firearm through range time and shooting on a relatively consistent basis;
4) The student must have trained for a period of time in Pramek so they understand the nuances of training that carry over to firearms instruction.
Anyone can buy a kitchen knife, but not everyone can own a firearm. We are talking about real life, crisis, horrible situations here folks. Firearm disarms are a sloppy, dangerous business no matter how many times they are trained…the more you train, the less sloppy, but never less dangerous it becomes.
As I think about my friend, I can only be thankful that when I have worked with her it’s been on how to strike and the occasional sword work she was interested in, and not on firearms disarms to someone who does not own a firearm.
So, we must all be careful, think about what we are teaching and the reach it may have on a student who may make the ultimate mistake, and stain the teacher’s conscious for a long time to come.
I know a little bit about crime. I served on the Virginia Highlands Security Advisory board for a while helping people with these situation. Commonly known as VAHI, it’s a high-risk for vagrants and location, medium income neighborhood in Atlanta. I faced their issues everyday beyond martial art or combatives, but to the core of security: intelligence and preparedness. Most people don’t know my day work. After contracting and consulting for years, I was director of corporate security for a multi-million dollar high risk firm for 3 years that spanned 3 continents, providing threat assessments and working with real life robberies, shootings, and massive cash collections under threat on a daily basis. All the while doing executive protection for the executives that due to the nature of the business we entertained threats on executive’s lives (including my own numerous times) multiple times weekly… from shooting to bombing threats. I also actively work as a reserve officer for a law enforcement department. I now consult for transportation and transit departments on their security. Yes, Pramek Matt has a day job. Just today I was setting up thermal imagery for a DOT in the southeast to help them with a situation they face. I have contracted and certified for EP/CPD (you would say bodyguard) for celebrities nationally, contracted as private security nationally to corporations, worked in high risk areas in numerous states for major corporations on their threat assessments, risk analysis, and have designed, built, and assisted with hundreds of high level security projects over the years.